July 7th, 2007
07:40 PM ET
3 years ago

Congress, White House standoff over testimony of former aide

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A former White House staffer is asking for compassion from the Senate Judiciary Committee in what may be another constitutional standoff between the legislative and executive branches, while the committee's Democratic chairman is sharpening his words.

The lawyer for former White House political director Sara Taylor - who has been subpoenaed to testify before the senate this week about the firing of several U.S. attorneys - sent a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, asking that she not be used as "the focus of the constitutional struggle."

"In our view, it is unfair to Ms. Taylor that this constitutional struggle might be played out with her as the object of an unseemly tug of war," wrote lawyer Neil Eggleston.

He said that Taylor has done nothing wrong and would testify "without hesitation" if not for an expected order from the White House - where she worked until six weeks ago - that she not comply the subpoena.

Eggleston urged senators to focus any punitive action against the White House, not his client. He said Taylor was caught in a "monumental clash between the executive and legislative branches of government" that could ultimately be decided in the courts.

Sen. Leahy's response to the letter was unrelenting as he continued to press for Taylor's testimony and wrote that he expects her to appear. Leahy fired away at the White House for what he called interference on the committee's investigation.

"I hope the White House stops this stonewalling and accepts my offer to negotiate a workable solution to the Committee's oversight requests," he said in a written statement.

Taylor is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

White House has publicly announced it would assert executive privilege in the case, directing Taylor and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who also was subpoenaed, not to comply with the Senate's subpoenas.

White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo issued a response Saturday to Leahy.

"Senator Leahy is seeking testimony related to Sara Taylor's duties as an aide to the President. The President is entitled to candid, confidential advice from his aides without the threat of compelled testimony from Congress," Mamo said.

Mamo said "none of this" is about actually obtaining the facts in the U.S. Attorney matter, otherwise Leahy would have accepted private interviews with White House aides. Mamo said if Leahy had accepted the White House terms, he would have gotten the information "without this confrontation or media spectacle."

Democrats on the committee complained that under the White House terms there would be no transcript and it would technically not be under oath.

– CNN Radio Capitol Hill Correspondent Lisa Goddard


Filed under: President Bush • Senate • U.S. attorney firings
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. F. Gillespie

    The Bush presidency will come to be known as "The Sulpher presidency"- it stinks & is rotten. The list of things gone wrong or done illegally is too long to remember. Certainly wholesale firing of non republican right wing judges is one of the many injustices that should be both investigated & overturned. This is wrongful termination if ever there was. It's comforting to know someone in Congress is awake & doing something.

    July 8, 2007 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  2. Patt J, Atlanta, GA

    What does the President and his staff have to hide??? I cannot imagine a President with so much power that he does not have to comply with the law of the land. What does it take to IMPEACH this man??? Is this country still a DEMOCRACY???

    July 8, 2007 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  3. Ann Brunswick ME

    Congress has no idea how tired the American public is of hearing their incessant whining and complaining about everything. It is time to stop this obnoxious finger pointing, attacks on everyone that moves, and potty mouth Congress antics. You were voted into office to work, not accuse and do tit-for-tat, so get with the program.

    July 8, 2007 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  4. Kristy Sanborn Dixon, Mo.

    I agree with Jeanie Mamo's comment 100%. She hit it right dead center!
    Only I will add, to Ms. Mamo's comment, which I agree, its not really an issue at all about the US Attorney's because they keep forgetting, the President could have fired ALL of the US Attorney's had he so chosen to. Its more of a matter of some just plain wanting to make a name for themselves, they LIKE the MEDIA attention, and some, IMO, are ADDICTED TO JUST THAT, the MEDIA ATTENTION anything gives them. Its been proven to me, too many times already.

    July 8, 2007 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  5. Paul Johnston, Professor of Political Studies, UCLA

    THEY ARE ALL LIARS..PRESIDENT BUSH JR. SHOULD HAVE BEEN IMPEACHED 2 YEARS AGO OVER THE IRAQI 'W.M.D.' LIES. WHY HAS THIS NOT BEEN DONE BY THE DEMOCRATS WHEN REPUBLICANS PUT BILL CLINTON THOUGH THIS HELL FOR ONLY HAVING SEX WITH AN AIDE?? ARE THESE 2 PARTIES IN CAHOOTS? SOMETHING'S GONE VERY WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY TODAY!

    July 9, 2007 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  6. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    "Mamo said “none of this” is about actually obtaining the facts in the U.S. Attorney matter, otherwise Leahy would have accepted private interviews with White House aides. Mamo said if Leahy had accepted the White House terms, he would have gotten the information “without this confrontation or media spectacle.”

    What Mamo means is, if Leahy had accepted the White House Terms, the World wouldn't have to see the real picture! And the White House carpet could continue hiding what they don't want the world to see. If they don't have anything to hide why are they so persistent in keeping it all private?

    July 9, 2007 12:10 am at 12:10 am |