White House plans to block testimony from former top Rove aide; Miers has not decided
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The White House appeared set for an expanded showdown with congressional investigators in the probe of the firing of eight US Attorneys over the weekend.
An attorney for Sara Taylor, a former top aide to White House adviser Karl Rove, notified the Senate that she was unlikely to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 11.
At the same time, former Counsel to President George W. Bush Harriet Miers told RAW STORY she did not know if she would appear before the House Judiciary Committee July 12.
An attorney for Taylor informed the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House sought to block her testimony.
"Ms. Taylor expects to receive a letter from Mr. Fielding on behalf of the President directing her not to comply with the Senate's subpoena," wrote W. Neil Eggleston, counsel to Taylor, in a Saturday letter to Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
Eggleston noted that Taylor, "recognizes the burden of any citizen to respect the Senate's processes and to be responsive to its subpoenas." But he seemed to signal she would follow the advice of Fred Fielding, White House Counsel, and respect the President's assertion of executive privilege.
"This clash may ultimately be resolved by the judicial branch," he added.
RAW STORY contacted Harriet Miers at the Dallas office of her law firm Friday afternoon. When asked if she would appear next week before the House Judiciary Committee, which subpoenaed her at the same time Leahy subpoenaed Taylor, she was uncertain.
"No decisions have been made about that at this point," the former White House Counsel said in a brief phone interview.
On Friday, a House Judiciary Committee spokesman told RAW STORY that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the committee's chairman, still expected to receive testimony from Miers next week.
Senator Leahy criticized Fielding and the White House for trying to hold up Taylor's testimony.
"It is unfortunate that the White House is trying to interfere with Ms. Taylor’s testimony before the Senate and with Congress’s responsibility to get to the truth behind the unprecedented firings of several U.S. Attorneys," he wrote in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "The White House continues to try to have it both ways – to block Congress from talking with witnesses and accessing documents and other evidence while saying nothing improper occurred. I hope the White House stops this stonewalling and accepts my offer to negotiate a workable solution to the Committee’s oversight requests, as so many previous White Houses have done throughout history."
Earlier testimony in the congressional investigation made it clear that Taylor and Miers were both intimately involved in various aspects of the firing of the US Attorneys which got underway at the end of 2006.
D. Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, noted in his May 29 appearance that "I remember speaking with Harriet Miers and Bill Kelley about that. Sometimes this subject would come up after a Judicial Selection Committee meeting, which was a once-a-week meeting that happened in the Roosevelt Room."
He added, "The issue of replacing U.S. attorneys most frequently came up as sort of a pull-aside after a Judicial Selection meeting."
Former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling also suggested Taylor had been a key decision-maker in the Attorneys firings in June.
"There was an e-mail that Mr. Sampson forwarded to me, I think, on December 4, if I'm remembering correctly, that said that it had been circulated to different offices within the White House and that they had all signed off," Goodling told Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee when she appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. "I think it said that White House political had signed off. Political is actually headed by Sara Taylor but does report to Mr. Rove, so I don't know for sure."
The White House had earlier refused to comply with a subpoena for documents as a prelude to the testimony of Miers and Taylor this coming week. It also made clear that if the House and Senate committees pressed their plan to hear from Miers and Taylor, it would assert executive privilege there as well.
In response, Senator Leahy answered last Sunday when asked if he was willing to schedule a vote to hold the White House in criminal contempt, "If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far."
While Taylor's attorney suggested that she wanted to comply with the Senate's desire to hear from Rove's number two, he also appeared to argue that the possiiblity of targeting her for contempt was unfair.
"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," he wrote in the Saturday letter. "If the executive and legislative branches of government are unable to reach an agreement, we urge the Senate not to use Ms. Taylor as the focus of the constitutional struggle...the White House, not Ms. Taylor, controls the assertion of executive privilege. If there has to be a clash, we urge the Senate to direct its sanction against the White House, not against a former staffer."
Taylor resigned from the White House in June, although reports of her resignation first surfaced in April.
Read Eggleston's letter here in PDF.