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Waxman Revisits AG, EPA Exec. Privilege Claims

In light of a recent ruling that restricts the extent of executive privilege, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) is getting in touch with White House officials who made such a claim to skirt giving the House oversight committee official documents related to an array of embarrassing White House scandals. Waxman fired off letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, and Susan Dudley, the head of regulatory affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, looking for each to answer why, exactly, executive privilege absolves them from turning over subpoenaed documents.

A federal district court ruled last week that a presidential claim of executive privilege doesn’t grant administration officials total immunity from Congressional investigations. The ruling specifically compelled Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, to testify and Josh Bolten, the White House chief of staff, to turn over documents to the House Judiciary Committee about fired U.S. attorneys.

Waxman’s letters may indicate the final battles he’s decided to wage with the Bush administration. The oversight committee has voted to hold Michael Mukasey in criminal contempt for not forking over Dick Cheney’s FBI interview about the Valerie Plame leak. Waxman’s letter pushes Mukasey to clarify why executive privilege shields him from turning this over.

From Johnson, Waxman wants documents that explain why the EPA administrator denied California a waiver to regulate tailpipe emissions. Waxman also wants documents from both Johnson and Dudley on the EPA’s new ozone standard. OMB intervened during the rule-making process, successfully getting the EPA to set a more lax standard.

Mukasey, Johnson, and Dudley have spent months cheerfully stonewalling the committee. Stay tuned to see if the court ruling changes their level of cooperation.

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