Subpoena Response Poses Dilemma

President Bush faces difficult choices in responding to subpoenas for two former White House officials.

Congressional committees issued subpoenas on Wednesday to Harriet Miers, who was White House counsel, and Sara Taylor, who served as public affairs director. The subpoenas seek testimony related to the firings of at least eight U.S. attorneys.

If the White House reaches an accommodation for their testimony, investigators are likely to pressure former political adviser Karl Rove to accept the same deal, according to an article in the New York Times.

But if the president asserts executive privilege, he risks looking uncooperative at a time he is trying to salvage his domestic agenda.

The White House reached a compromise in a similar dispute when Fred Fielding was White House counsel for President Reagan, Legal Times reports. Fielding is back in the post as Miers’ replacement.

At that time, Congress subpoenaed both Environmental Protection Agency administrator Anne Burford and documents related to Superfund. Fielding worked out a compromise that allowed Congress to review the documents and return them to the White House.

Observers are divided on how the administration will fare if it fails to reach compromise and asserts a claim of executive privilege.

David Rivkin, who worked in the White House counsel’s office under Bush’s father, told the New York Times he thinks the president would “have excellent prospects of winning in court.”

But Beth Nolan, who worked in the White House for President Clinton, told Legal Times that the administration could lose an executive privilege claim. “There is no blanket protection for all information about the White House,” she says.

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