BREAKING: HJC Wins Round One of Contempt of Congress Case

July 31, 2008 11:12 am

The House Judiciary Committee has won the first round of its lawsuit against the White House over contempt of Congress in House Judiciary Committee v. Harriet Miers et al.

From the order:

Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena from plaintiff; and Ms. Miers may invoke executive privilege in response to specific questions as appropriate.

and that. . .

Joshua Bolten and Ms. Miers shall produce all non-privileged documents requested by the applicable subpoenas and shall provide to plaintiff a specific description of any documents withheld from production on the basis of executive privilege consistent with the terms of the Memorandum Opinion issued on this date

The ruling is the latest in an ongoing battle between Congress and the White House, to have senior aides testify about the U.S. attorney firings.

After looking over the Opinion, Federal Judge John Bates lays out protocol for Congressional subpoenas, stating that while there may be perfectly legitimate claims of executive privilege, a subpoena from Congress can’t just be ignored– and if it is, Congress has a right to sue for failure to respond.

But as far as those claims of executive privilege go, the questions of their validity is still on the table. The Opinion specifically states that the Court “expresses no view on such claims,” but it does go so far as to demand that the White House produce specific descriptions of all documents that relate to the claim of executive privilege. This list of descriptions, often called a “privilege log,” helps lift the veil on the swath of documents that are being considered under the Administration’s privilege claim.

So in short, the White House can continue to claim executive privilege, and Congress can continue to sue them on the legitimacy of the claims. Unless the two parties can work something out, around and around we go.

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