WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is urging a former White House political director to ignore a subpoena and not testify before Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors, her lawyer says.
The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to hear from Sara Taylor at its hearing Wednesday and she is willing to talk. Testifying, however, would defy the wishes of the president, “a person whom she admires and for whom she has worked tirelessly for years,” lawyer W. Neil Eggleston said.
Eggleston stated, in a letter this weekend to committee leaders and White House counsel Fred Fielding, that Taylor expects a letter from Fielding asking her not to comply with the subpoena.
“In our view, it is unfair to Ms. Taylor that this constitutional struggle might be played out with her as the object of an unseemly tug of war,” Eggleston wrote.
He added, “Absent the direction from the White House, Ms. Taylor would testify without hesitation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has committed no wrongdoing. She will assert no personal privileges.”
The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said he expects Taylor to testify.
“It is unfortunate that the White House is trying to interfere with Ms. Taylor’s testimony before the Senate and with Congress’ responsibility to get to the truth behind the unprecedented firings of several U.S. attorneys,” Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement.
Lawmakers have given the White House until Monday to explain why the White House claimed executive privilege on subpoenaed documents related to the congressional investigation. Lawmakers also want an accounting of documents being withheld.
The Washington Post, citing unidentified sources, reported Sunday that Fielding was expected to tell lawmakers that he already has provided the legal basis for the executive privilege claims and does not intend to hand over the documentation sought.
“We’re going to pursue our legal remedies to press forward with the subpoenas. I don’t think, if this is correct, we don’t have any other choice,” said Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
The fight involves the investigation by Democratic lawmakers into the firings of several U.S. attorneys. The lawmakers want to know whether the White House improperly ordered the dismissals.
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Wiretap, Gonzales at issue
The investigation has expanded to include scrutiny of the administration’s terrorism-era warrantees wiretapping and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ stewardship of the Justice Department.
Without an agreement on the subpoenaed documents, the dispute appears to be heading toward contempt citations and, possibly, a constitutional showdown in federal court.
Asked in a broadcast interview if the defiance would mean holding the White House in contempt of Congress, Conyers said, “Well, yes. It means moving forward in the process that would require him to comply with the subpoenas like most other people.”
Conyers said he would not hold Taylor in contempt and he hoped negotiations with the White House might break the impasse.
“We keep getting stalled. They keep pressing us. We’re seeking cooperation. This is not partisan in any way whatsoever. I would have the same attitude if it were a Democratic president,” he said.
Conyers appeared on “This Week” on ABC.
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