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White House Manipulating Release of Roberts Info, Stonewalling Senate Access to Public Documents

Press Release
Josh Glasstetter or Nick Berning
People For the American Way
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Bush administration shows contempt for Senate, public right to know

The White House continues to restrict and manipulate access to the full record of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, making it impossible for senators to carry out their constitutional obligation to make a fair, thorough, and independent evaluation of the nominee’s record and judicial philosophy.

“The Bush administration’s response to troubling revelations about John Roberts’ record is to slam the door on the Senate and the American people,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Senators have to find out what the White House is hiding and why.”

An August 10 Washington Post story reported that the White House is delaying the release of tens of thousands of documents that should be legally available to the Senate and the public even while using the same documents to plot its own political strategy. An August 9 letter from Senator Leahy complained that White House officials are selectively leaking some of those documents to the media while denying the same information to senators and the public. In addition, the Justice Department on August 5 formally declared an entire category of documents – relating to Roberts’ tenure as a top appointee in the solicitor general’s office – off limits to senators on the Judiciary Committee.

“The White House is hiding Roberts’ record behind secrecy policies President Bush himself put in place and claims of executive privilege that even Republican senators have previously contradicted,” said Neas. “The future of the Supreme Court is too important to let the Bush administration get away with its contempt for the Senate’s constitutional duty and the public’s right to know.”

The White House is relying on an executive order President Bush signed in 2001 giving himself greater power to block the public release of documents from earlier administrations, and is claiming attorney-client privilege to block the release of solicitor general documents to the Senate or to the media. Documents being withheld could shed important light on Roberts’ approach to important constitutional questions including privacy, religious liberty, and voting rights. Neas noted that similar documents have been released during other judicial confirmation proceedings, including the Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and William Rehnquist.