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