Leahy Rejects Executive Privilege Claim; Contempt Citations Could Follow Next Week

Posted November 29, 2007 at 10:28am

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) ruled today that the White House claim of executive privilege covering testimony and documents from former top aides to President Bush was “overbroad, unsubstantiated and not legally valid.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee could issue contempt citations for current and former senior White House officials — including Karl Rove — as early as its Dec. 6 executive business meeting.

Leahy directed Rove, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, former White House political director Sara Taylor and deputy political director Scott Jennings to “comply immediately” with the subpoenas related to the committee’s investigation of the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

“I have given the White House’s claims of executive privilege and immunity careful consideration,” Leahy wrote in a statement. “I hereby rule that those claims are not legally valid to excuse current and former White House employees from appearing, testifying and producing documents related to this investigation.”

The House Judiciary Committee already has approved contempt citations and the full House may take up the measure in December.

The Leahy statement signifies that the Senate may soon do the same thing, setting up what likely would be a lengthy court battle.

— Rachel Van Dongen