Common Cause statement on Bolton, Miers contempt ruling

Common Cause applauds the decision of United States District Court Judge John D. Bates to reject the President’s claim of absolute immunity from having to comply with Congressional subpoenas for former White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers, and the current White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten.

“The White House’s claim that current and former White House aides are immune from congressional subpoena is another example of President Bush’s abuse of power,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “This groundbreaking decision in support of the Congress’ right to enforce its subpoenas is a victory for our democracy.”

In throwing out the absolute immunity argument, President Bush’s own appointee to the federal bench has dealt a lethal blow to former White House aide Karl Rove’s claim of absolute immunity from Congressional questioning. The House Judiciary Committee has recommended that Rove be cited for contempt for also ignoring a subpoena.

“The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors in this or any other context. That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: the asserted absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case law. In fact, there is Supreme Court authority that is all but conclusive on this question and that powerfully suggests that such advisors do not enjoy absolute immunity. The Court therefore rejects the Executive’s claim of absolute immunity for senior presidential aides,” Bates wrote in the ruling, citing several cases, including United States v. Nixon (1974).

If the decision is appealed, the court must expedite the process in order to give Congress time to hold a hearing before adjournment.

“The White House has tried to set a dangerous precedent by refusing to honor Congressional subpoenas. It also appears willing to continue down this path by appealing the decision regardless of the implications for the appropriate oversight role granted to Congress by the Constitution,” said Edgar. “Congress must now act quickly and decisively to determine whether Rove, Miers, Bolten, or others in the Executive Branch politicized the Department of Justice and broke the law.”