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Bush rebuffs Congress on Clinton campaign documents

By Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has asserted "executive privilege" and is refusing to release confidential Justice Department documents related to campaign fundraising practices during the Clinton administration to a congressional oversight committee.

"It is my decision that you should not release these documents or otherwise make them available to the committee," Bush said in a memorandum to Attorney General John Ashcroft that was released by the White House on Thursday.

"Because I believe that congressional access to these documents would be contrary to the national interest, I have decided to assert executive privilege with respect to the documents and to instruct you not to release them or otherwise make them available to the committee," the president said.

The House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, had subpoenaed Justice Department records, including memos to and from then-Attorney General Janet Reno on whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate alleged campaign fundraising abuses by the Clinton administration and whether criminal prosecutions should be brought against any individuals.

Bush said disclosure of such documents "threatens to politicize the criminal justice process" and "would inhibit the candor necessary" for the "deliberative processes" that guide Justice Department prosecutorial decisions.

Further, he said releasing such materials would be a violation of the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution.

"Congressional pressure on executive branch prosecutorial decision making is inconsistent with separation of powers and threatens individual liberty," said Bush.

The president asked Ashcroft to notify the committee of his decision and to continue working "informally" with the committee to provide information "without violating the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers."


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