From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Escalating a fight with Democrats on Capitol Hill, the White House on Friday invoked executive privilege in refusing to turn over documents to a congressional committee investigating the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to deny California permission to implement its own vehicle emission standards.
The Bush administration asserted executive privilege hours before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to vote on whether to bring contempt-of-Congress proceedings against EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and Susan Dudley, administrator of regulatory affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget, for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents.
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) put off a vote on the contempt resolutions while he considers his options.
“I don’t think we’ve had a situation like this since Richard Nixon was president,” he said, appearing determined to press ahead, even if it leads to a court fight. “We don’t know whether this privilege that’s being asserted is valid or not.”
House and Senate committees have been investigating what role the White House played in EPA decisions preventing California and other states from enacting tougher emissions rules than the federal government and in the EPA’s approval of new ozone pollution standards.
The administration’s claim of executive privilege is the latest twist in the escalating legal and political battle over California’s efforts to implement its own law combating global warming. Critics of the EPA decision contend that it was based on politics, not science or the law.
In asserting executive privilege in the EPA inquiry, the administration made public a copy of a letter sent to the president by Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey saying that releasing internal documents “could inhibit the candor of future deliberations among the president’s staff.”