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White House plans to squirrel away Roberts documents

In yet another “hide the papers” folly, the Bush team is going to claim attorney-client privilege to keep a paper trail of SCOTUS nominee John Roberts’s past work in the White House under wraps.

The Bush administration does not intend to release all memos and others documents written by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts during his tenure with two Republican administrations, a White House representative said Sunday.

Fred D. Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who is guiding Roberts through the nomination process on behalf of the White House, said material that would come under attorney-client privilege would be withheld. He said previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have followed that principle. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said requests for documents would be considered on a case-by-case basis from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider the nomination.

“There is often an accommodation that is reached with respect to requests for information, and I suspect that’s going to happen in this case,” Gonzales said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The committee has yet to make a request. But some Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, have urged the White House to release such documents “in their entirety.” Roberts worked in the Reagan White House counsel’s office from 1982-1986. Roberts also was principal deputy solicitor general in the administration of the first President Bush. “We hope we don’t get into a situation where documents are asked for that folks know will not be forthcoming and we get all hung up on that,” Thompson told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said other nominees, including Chief Justice William Rehnquist, have provided material they wrote in confidence while working in the Justice Department. “There’s so much precedence for that,” said Leahy, the senior Democrat on the committee. “It’s a total red herring to say, ‘Oh, we can’t show this.’ And of course there is no lawyer-client privilege. Those working in the solicitor general’s office are not working for the president. They’re working for you and me and all the American people,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding