All the news that the NY Times choses not to print
WASHINGTON, July 20 — The Justice Department would be likely to block any efforts by Congressional Democrats to seek contempt charges against present and former White House officials for refusing to give information to Congress, a White House spokesman said Friday.
Congress and the White House have been moving toward a constitutional confrontation over the administration’s invoking executive privilege to prevent any testimony about its role in last year’s dismissal of federal prosecutors.
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Congressional threats to have presidential aides charged with criminal contempt would probably end in failure. “It has been the Justice Department’s long-held view that the law does not permit Congress to require a U.S. attorney to convene a grand jury or otherwise pursue a prosecution” when someone refuses on the basis of executive privilege to testify or turn over documents, Mr. Fratto said.
The administration’s warning that contempt citations would fail is the latest salvo in an escalating legal clash between the White House and Congress and appears intended to discourage Democrats in Congress from pursuing the charges against White House officials.
The administration sought on Friday to tamp down suggestions that a crisis was looming. “Obviously there are a number of steps that would have to occur before we reached a juncture where such a legal position could be considered,” said a senior Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk about legal strategy in this case.
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