WASHINGTON – In the growing battle between the White House and Congress, the administration will block the Justice Department from prosecuting any contempt charges that Congress may bring as a result of the administration's claim of executive privilege, according to a news report.
Administration officials have discussed the plan for several weeks, a move that could derail ongoing attempts in Congress to uncover new documents or testimony in the investigation of last year's firings of several U.S. attorneys, The Washington Post reported.
Congressional Democrats have led the charge against the administration, saying the firings have the appearance of being politically motivated, pointing to the involvement of top political officials in the administration as well as e-mail conversations by administration officials taking place on Republican National Committee accounts.
Several Justice Department officials have resigned amid the investigation, and some have said they acted improperly. But the White House has remained staunch in its stance that it has the right at any time to fire attorneys. Furthermore, it has rebuffed attempts to bring any more White House officials before public hearings using the claim to executive privilege.
"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," an unnamed administration official told The Washington Post, adding, "A U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."
The House Judiciary Committee is considering contempt charges against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. If the House pursues statutory contempt charges — the standard contempt procedure — the House would need the Justice Department to prosecute the matter.