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Separation of Powers

Ex-Aide to Answer Few Questions

Posted Jul 11, 2007 11:34 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: The former White House political director is putting restrictions on her testimony today before a Senate committee investigating the firings of at least eight U.S. attorneys.

Sara Taylor will not testify about matters shielded by executive privilege but will answer questions “that are appropriate for a private citizen to answer,” according to an advance copy of her testimony quoted in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Taylor says she will not answer questions about “White House consideration, deliberations, or communications, whether internal or external, relating to the possible dismissal or appointment of United States attorneys.”

White House counsel Fred Fielding had set out those restrictions in a letter mailed to Taylor this week after President Bush invoked executive privilege in the controversy.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., responded to Taylor's decision with a challenge for her to cooperate, the Associated Press reports.

''It is apparent that this White House is contemptuous of the Congress and feels that it does not have to explain itself to anyone,'' Leahy said in prepared remarks. ''I urge Ms. Taylor not to follow the White House down this path.''

The Post says Taylor and her attorney hope that her appearance at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will shield her from any enforcement action. Taylor's statement says she will answer questions if a court later rules that the need for the information outweighs the president’s assertion of privilege.

In an editorial today, the New York Times concludes the executive privilege claim is "baseless" and says Congress should compel Taylor's testimony, as well as that of former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

"Congress should use the powers at its disposal, including holding them in contempt," the editorial says.

Originally posted 07-11-2007 7:03 AM.

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