A federal judge today criticized government lawyers for their “weak” argument in urging the court to stay an order that compels two top White House aides to appear under subpoena before the House Judiciary Committee.
U.S. District Judge John Bates of the District of Columbia said today he will not stay his July 31 order that requires Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten to appear before the committee, which is investigating the U.S. attorney firings. Justice Department lawyers had asked for a stay to allow an appeal of the order to run its course in the D.C. Circuit.
Bush administration lawyers contend that Miers, the former White House counsel, and Bolten, the White House chief of staff, are immune from congressional subpoenas.
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, responding to the judge’s ruling today, says the committee plans to “promptly” hold a hearing in which Miers and Bolten will be asked to answer questions under oath. Bates’ order also requires the White House to produce unprivileged documents on the U.S. attorney firings.
“Today's ruling clearly rejects the White House's efforts to run out the clock on the Committee's investigation of DOJ politicization this Congress,” Chairman John Conyers Jr. said in a statement.
Bates found that the government has failed to demonstrate that it has “a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the absolute immunity issue” or that it has even raised a serious, substantial question to warrant suspending the order.
“The Executive’s argument boils down to a claim that a stay is appropriate because the underlying issue is important,” Bates wrote. “But that is beside the point and does not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. Simply calling an issue important—primarily because it involves the relationship of the political branches—does not transform the Executive’s weak arguments into a likelihood of success or a substantial appellate issue.”