WASHINGTON The House Judiciary Committee filed suit Monday to force former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to provide information about the firing of U.S. attorneys.
The lawsuit filed in federal court Monday says Miers is not immune from the obligation to testify and both she and Bolten must identify all documents that are being withheld from Congress.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said, "We will not allow the administration to steamroll Congress."
Conyers said he is confident the federal courts will agree that the Bush administration's claims to be immune from congressional oversight are at odds with constitutional principles.
The House committee early last year subpoenaed Bolten for documents and Miers for testimony in trying to make a case that the White House directed the firing of nine U.S. attorneys because they were not supportive enough of Republicans' political agenda.
Bolten and Miers refused to comply.
On President Bush's behalf, White House Counsel Fred Fielding said such information is private and covered by executive privilege.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, told Congress they would not refer a contempt citation to a prosecutor if the subjects were acting as directed under executive privilege.
The lawsuit says executive privilege intended to protect the confidentiality of advice from the president's closest advisers does not cover documents that don't involve the president.
The privilege also does not cover documents whose contents are widely known, previously released or that were the subject of extensive, previously authorized testimony, the lawsuit adds.
The lawsuit says the White House is making a blanket claim of executive privilege, despite the administration saying that the president was not personally involved in communications subpoenaed form Bolten.
It says Miers' conduct is inconsistent with representations that the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel made to Congress in 1971 when OLC was being run by future Justice William H. Rehnquist.
Rehnquist told Congress that a witness intending to invoke executive privilege may not simply ignore congressional subpoena and fail to appear.Conyers said the administration "simply will not negotiate towards a compromise resolution, so we must proceed."