WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush invoked executive privilege Monday to deny requests by Congress for testimony from former White House aides Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers.
The White House offered once more to make the pair available for private, off-the-record interviews on any role it might have played in the firings of several U.S. attorneys.
In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary panels, White House counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith and refused lawmakers' demand that the president explain the basis for invoking the privilege.
The latest move in the separation of powers fight between the legislative and executive branches came as members of Congress began returning from their Fourth of July recess. An atmosphere of high tension accompanied the resumption of work as a fight also loomed there between majority Democrats and some key Republicans and Bush over his Iraq war policy.
In his letter regarding subpoenas the Judiciary panels issued, Fielding said, "The president feels compelled to assert exeutive privilege with respect ot the testimony sought from Sara M. Taylor and Harriet E. Miers."
"You may be assured that the president's assertion here comports with prior practices in similar contexts, and that it has been appropriately documented," the letter said.
Fielding was responding to a 10 a.m. EDT deadline set by the Democratic chairmen, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, for the White House to explain it's privilege claim, prove that the president personally invoked it and provide logs of which documents were being withheld.
As expected, Fielding refused to comply. He said he was acting at Bush's direction, and he complained that the committees had decided to enforce the subpoenas whether or not the White House complied.
"The committees have already prejudged the question, regardless of the prodoction of any privilege log," Fielding wrote. "In such circumstances, we will not be undertaking such a project, even as a further accommodation."