House files contempt lawsuit against top ex-Bush aides
The House Judiciary Committee filed suit Monday to force former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to provide information about the firing of U.S. attorneys.
The lawsuit filed in federal court Monday says Miers is not immune from the obligation to testify and both she and Bolten must identify all documents that are being withheld from Congress.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said, "We will not allow the administration to steamroll Congress."
Conyers said he is confident the federal courts will agree that the Bush administration's claims to be immune from congressional oversight are at odds with constitutional principles.
The White House took the opposite view.
"They continue to focus on partisan theater," White House press secretary Dana Perino said of House Democrats. "The confidentiality that the president receives from his senior advisers and the constitutional principle of separation of powers must be protected from overreaching and we are confident that the courts will agree with us."
The House committee early last year subpoenaed Bolten for documents and Miers for testimony in trying to make a case that the White House directed the firing of nine U.S. attorneys because they were not supportive enough of Republicans' political agenda.
Bolten and Miers refused to comply.
On President Bush's behalf, White House Counsel Fred Fielding said such information is private and covered by executive privilege.
The House passed the contempt citation by a 223-32 vote that most Republicans boycotted.
A week and a half ago, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he would not refer the House's contempt citation to a grand jury and that neither Bolten nor Myers had committed a crime.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then announced she had given the Judiciary Committee authority to sue Bolten and Myers in federal court.