Bolten, Miers Ask Judge to Delay Order

Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten.
Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten. (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
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By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 8, 2008

White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers yesterday asked a federal judge to delay an order to cooperate with Congress while they appeal the ruling.

The court filings indicate that Bolten and Miers will continue to resist subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee as the Bush administration heads into its final months.

The plans for an appeal come in response to a ruling last week by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates. He rejected the administration's broad claims of executive privilege and ordered Bolten and Miers to comply with congressional subpoenas.

Lawmakers are seeking testimony from Miers and documents from Bolten related to the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. After Bates's ruling, Democrats announced they would schedule hearings on the issue in September -- less than two months before the presidential elections.

Obtaining a delay could head off such hearings until after the elections. The subpoenas also expire at the end of the year.

In their filings yesterday, Bush administration attorneys wrote: "Whatever the proper resolution of the extraordinarily important questions presented, the public interest clearly favors further consideration of issues before defendants are required to take actions that may forever alter the constitutional balance of separation of powers."

The Bush administration argues that Bolten, Miers and other White House officials do not have to comply with the subpoenas because the testimony and documents being sought are protected by executive privilege. Bates ruled that the administration's reading of the privilege was excessively broad and ordered Bolten and Miers to comply with the subpoenas and be more specific about the information they say is protected.

"The Bush-Cheney administration continues to defy our validly issued congressional subpoenas for information relevant to the politicization of the Department of Justice by this White House," Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

But Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), ranking Republican on the House Judiciary panel, said the White House "has the right to appeal," and he urged Democrats "to achieve a negotiated settlement" with the administration.

Also yesterday, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) sent a letter to the Republican National Committee, arguing that Bates's ruling also applies to e-mail records that the RNC has refused to turn over to Congress in connection with the U.S. attorneys probe. Spokesman Alex Conant said the RNC is reviewing the letter.

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