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Justice Department Appeals Contempt Ruling

The Justice Department Thursday appealed a July 31 ruling mandating that current and former senior White House officials respond to Congressional subpoenas, and asked the court to prevent officials from testifying until the appeal is resolved.

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that former White House counsel Harriet Miers could not refuse to appear before Congress under a theory of broad executive privilege. Instead, the court ruled, she would have to appear and assert privilege as a reason not to respond to specific questions, giving Congress the right to challenge her assertion of privilege in court.

Miers has refused to respond to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committed to testify on allegations of political interference in the operation of the Justice Department, and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has refused to turn over documents or a detailed list of documents that are being withheld.

Democrats have said they hope to use the ruling to force Miers and other officials, including former White House political director Karl Rove, to testify on a range of subjects.

On Thursday, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) also sent a letter to the attorney for the Republican National Committee, citing the July 31 ruling in arguing that the RNC must now turn over e-mails that Democrats have been seeking as part of their investigation.

The Justice Department argued in its request for a stay on Thursday that forcing Miers and Bolten to testify “would impose the very harm — compelled appearance of the President’s closest advisors — that the defendants say the Constitution prohibits, and which they seek to appeal.”

If the court grants the stay, it is likely that neither Miers nor Rove would be forced to testify until after President Bush is out of office.

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