WASHINGTON (AP) -- Prepared to invoke executive privilege for the first time, President Bush is moving toward a showdown with a GOP-led House panel over whether lawmakers are entitled to see documents about prosecutors' decision making.
Senior administration officials told The Associated Press that Bush has accepted the advice of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and is ready to make an executive privilege claim to keep the House Government Reform Committee from seeing memos involving three Clinton-era criminal cases.
The committee planned to up the ante Thursday by serving Attorney General John Ashcroft with a subpoena demanding access to the documents and expanding its request to cover even more cases.
Ironically, the battle against the Bush administration is being waged by a fellow Republican, Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana. He argues the administration's stance is a threat to Congress' oversight responsibility.
"If this unprecedented policy is permitted to stand, Congress will not be able to exercise meaningful oversight of the executive branch," Burton said.
Executive privilege is a doctrine recognized by the courts that ensures presidents may get candid advice in private without fear of it becoming public.
The privilege, however, is best known for the unsuccessful attempts by former Presidents Nixon and Clinton to keep evidence secret during impeachment investigations.
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