By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 6, 2008
A federal appeals court granted the White House a temporary delay in turning over documents to a House committee investigating the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
A three-judge panel ordered the stay on Thursday, the deadline set by the House Judiciary Committee for White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten to provide the records. The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also will probably delay the appearance of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers before the committee. She is scheduled to testify next Thursday.
The judges wrote in a one-page order that they needed more time to consider a White House motion seeking to defer enforcement of a U.S. district judge's ruling that Miers and Bolten must cooperate with the committee.
The White House and Congress have battled over the committee's demand for Miers's testimony and Bolten's documents. Democrats in Congress believe that Miers and the documents will shed light on what role politics may have played in the controversial dismissal of the nine federal prosecutors in 2006.
The White House has argued that Miers and Bolten are shielded from testifying or turning over records under the legal doctrine of executive privilege. But in a ruling July 31, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates sided with Congress, ruling that Miers must appear before the committee but that she could invoke executive privilege on a question-by-question basis. He also ordered Bolten to turn over documents or explain in detail why they are being withheld. Bates last week rejected a White House effort to delay enforcement of his order while it appeals his decision.
The appeals court ordered the White House, which is represented by the Justice Department, to file motions by Monday. The committee's lawyers must respond by Wednesday.