Judge Rules That Bush Aides Cannot Ignore Subpoenas

Posted July 31, 2008 at 10:53am

A federal court ruled Thursday that top White House officials do not have blanket immunity from Congressional subpoenas.

The Justice Department had asked the court to throw out a lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee to compel the testimony of former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. The committee is seeking testimony on the controversial firing of U.S. attorneys in 2006.

The ruling may also affect former presidential aide Karl Rove. The Judiciary Committee issued a contempt citation for him earlier this week, but the House has yet to approve it.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Thursday morning that “the Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law.”

Judge John Bates wrote that Miers and Bolten may still be able to assert specific immunity claims, which the court would rule upon if asked, but he urged the White House and the committee to continue negotiations to seek a mutually agreeable settlement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the ruling, calling it “very good for anyone who believes in the Constitution of the United States and the separation of powers.”

She said she will be making an announcement about how she plans to proceed on Rove soon.

Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas)said he was “please the “Court ruled in favor of Congress” but added that he remains “concerned that the information requested by House Democrats does not merit a Constitutional showdown between Congress and the Administration”

“Unfortunately, today’s victory may be short-lived. If the Administration appeals the ruling, our Congressional prerogatives will once again be put at risk,” Smith said, urging the Democrats and the White House to go back to the table and negotiate.