Subpoena Showdown

Brian Zick

Peter Baker in WaPo reports: The White House has decided to defy Congress's latest demand for information regarding the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys, sources familiar with the decision said yesterday. Such an action would escalate the constitutional struggle and propel it closer to a court showdown. Senate and House committees have directed President Bush to provide by tomorrow a detailed justification of his executive privilege claims and a full accounting of the documents he is withholding. But White House counsel Fred F. Fielding plans to tell lawmakers that he has already provided the legal basis for the claims and will not provide a log of the documents, the sources said. The standoff suggests that neither side is prepared to budge in the fight over documents and testimony in the widening U.S. attorney investigation. Officials in both camps said no serious negotiations are taking place to resolve the dispute. Fielding plans to follow up his letter by further asserting executive privilege later this week, the sources said, directing former White House aides Harriet E. Miers and Sara M. Taylor not to testify in response to congressional subpoenas. The two sides increasingly believe that the matter will lead congressional Democrats to seek criminal contempt citations against the White House, which could result in a protracted court battle over the contours of the president's power to shield White House deliberations. Both sides insist that the other's legal position is weak and argue that this could be one of the most important test cases in years.

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