Fight over White House subpoenas heads to court

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Congress issued its demands. The White House refused. Now it's up to a federal judge to settle a dispute over documents and testimony regarding fired federal prosecutors.

Lawyers for the White House and Congress were headed to court Monday to argue the scope of the president's power to ignore legislative subpoenas. Court fights on this topic are rare and are normally reserved for questions of whether the White House has to cooperate with a criminal investigation, not with a congressional inquiry.

The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee is demanding documents and testimony from the president's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and former counsel Harriet Miers about the firing of U.S. attorneys. The scandal helped force the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The White House says Miers and Bolten do not need to comply with the subpoenas, citing executive privilege, the principle that one branch of government can't make another branch do something.

Judges normally try to stay out of disputes between the executive and legislative branches. The Bush administration wants the court to avoid this fight, too. Lawmakers say the court is obligated to help enforce a congressional subpoena.

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