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Also published at my web magazine, The Public Record.
The Justice Department and White House lawyers are engaged in intense negotiations with attorneys for George W. Bush and three of his former advisers over demands that they testify before Congress and turn over documents about their alleged roles in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006, according to court papers filed Thursday, lawmakers who serve on the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Counsel.
Additionally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the Obama administration to file legal briefs by Feb. 25 stating whether it intended to back Bush’s extraordinary claims of executive privilege involving the testimony of two other advisers, ex-White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, who were held in contempt of Congress last year for refusing to testify about the U.S. Attorney firings.
Last week, the DOJ asked the appeals court to delay until March 4 a deadline for the Obama administration to file legal briefs while negotiations played out. The appeals court formally rejected that request Thursday.
The Justice Department filed a motion requesting the appeals court reconsider it's decision and allow the full two-week delay it sought.
“The inauguration of a new President has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation. At the same time, there is now an additional interested party—the former President—whose views should be considered,” the DOJ's motion says, in language identical to what they submitted to the court last week when it asked for the delay. “Negotiations are now ongoing,” they said, adding, “these tripartite discussions have been complicated and time consuming.”
If a deal is not reached by Wednesday and the Justice Department fails to file a brief stating its position the appeals court indicated it may press ahead with sanctions against the Justice Department.
Craig, the White House counsel, issued a statement last week stating that Obama has encouraged all sides to enter into a settlement and avoid a prolonged legal battle.
"The President is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig said. "But he is also mindful as President of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."
The settlement talks also include whether internal White House documents, such as e-mails, held by Bolten and Miers will be turned over to Congress.