HIGH COURT NOMINEE Roberts' records classified
The documents contain sensitive information, the Bush administration says.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
WASHINGTON -- Defying Senate Democrats, the Bush administration will withhold some documents written by Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts while he worked for earlier Republican administrations, advisers to the White House said Sunday.
The documents, written while Roberts worked in President Reagan's White House and President George H.W. Bush's Justice Department, will be withheld on grounds of attorney-client privilege, they said on Sunday news shows. But some Democratic senators disputed the need to keep them secret, and argued that precedent suggests they should be released.
Roberts, 50, worked in the Reagan White House counsel's office from 1982-86. He served in the Justice Department of the first President Bush as principal deputy solicitor general.
Fred D. Thompson, a lawyer, actor and former Republican senator who is advising the nominee, said that releasing documents written while Roberts was deputy solicitor general would bring to light "internal documents, memos about ongoing recommendations and positions." He compared them to privileged conversations with a priest, a physician or a spouse.
"There are lots of good reasons why [making them public] is a bad idea," Thompson said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, appearing on three of the Sunday news shows, warned that releasing internal documents written by Justice Department lawyers "does chill communications between line attorneys and their superiors within the Department of Justice."
On "Fox News Sunday" he characterized the documents as "very sensitive, very deliberative information, not something that the administration or any White House would be inclined to share, because it is so sensitive."
Thompson, who served three decades ago as the chief counsel to the Republicans on the Senate Watergate Committee, contended that leaders in both parties, from "[Watergate special prosecutor] Archibald Cox on down," have believed that such documents should be withheld.
He added: "We hope we don't get into a situation where documents are asked for that folks know will not be forthcoming, and we got all hung up on that."
But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, disputed that there was a lawyer-client privilege.
"It's a total red herring to say, 'Oh, we can't show this,'" he said on ABC's "This Week."
He said that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, former federal appeals court judge Robert H. Bork, former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and others had given up documents written while they worked for the Justice Department.