Leahy fires back over Bush refusal to produce documents

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(Host) Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy fired back at the White House yesterday over President Bush’s refusal to produce documents relating to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Todd Zwillich has more from Capitol Hill.

(Zwillich) Under Leahy’s direction, the judiciary committee subpoenaed two former White House officials to tell what they know of possible political influence over the attorney firings last year.

The White House officially said Monday that all documents relating to the firings are privileged and won’t be provided to senators. That includes emails between political operatives and Justice Department officials allegedly discussing the reasons for who was picked to be ousted.

Hours later, Leahy attacked the White House for using a blanket definition of executive privilege to avoid oversight by his committee.

(Leahy) “A serious assertion, one they honestly believed in, would include an effort to demonstrate to the committee which documents and which parts of those documents are covered by the privilege that is asserted to apply and why.”

(Zwillich) One of the White House officials subpoenaed is Sarah Taylor, a former political aide. The other is Harriet Meyers, the former council to the President.

The White House has said it is willing to let officials appear before lawmakers, but not under oath in public hearings.

Leahy says he’s been trying to negotiate with the White House over documents and testimony from officials.

(Leahy) “And for months, the only answer we get is the same unacceptable take it or leave it offer.

(Zwillich) Sarah Taylor is set to appear before Leahy’s panel Wednesday. But with the White House directing her not to cooperate, Leahy now seems unlikely to get the answers he’s after. If an agreement with the White House is not reached, the matter could wind up in Federal court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Todd Zwillich on Capitol Hill

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