The Bush administration does not want to release confidential memos that U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts wrote when he worked for two Republican presidents, a White House adviser said on Sunday.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, named by President Bush to steer Roberts’ confirmation through the Senate, disputed calls by some Democrats to turn over all the documents from Roberts’ tenure at the White House and Justice Department.
“The administration’s been pretty consistent on that, in fact, I think very consistent, in that (confidential documents) will not be forthcoming,” Thompson said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Conversations he has with his priest, conversations he has with his doctor or his wife or his client are matters that are off limits, basically,” said Thompson, a Republican who represented Tennessee in the Senate.
Democratic senators said they want to see all the documents in order to understand Roberts’ views on issues such as abortion, workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights and the environment.
“We need to know things about him that two years on the (federal appeals court) in the District of Columbia don’t tell us, whether that’s through documentation or his answers to questions,” Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on “Meet the Press.”
Roberts argued before the Supreme Court as the principal deputy solicitor general during the presidency of Bush’s father. He also worked in the Justice Department in 1981-1982 and in the White House counsel’s office during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, disagreed with Thompson’s stand that Roberts’ documents are covered by attorney-client privilege and said many previous nominees had agreed to make the same type of documents public.
“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,” Leahy said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Bush nominated Roberts, a member of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who often cast the decisive vote on the nine-member court, which has been closely divided between conservative and liberal justices.
Despite Thompson’s strong view, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration would look at the Democrats’ document requests on a case-by-case basis and would be “as accommodating as we can.”
“We understand that this is a very important decision by members of the Senate and they do need information to make an informed decision and we’re going to work as hard as we can to reach the appropriate accommodation,” Gonzalez said on “Fox News Sunday.”
As U.S. deputy solicitor general in 1990, Roberts stated the first Bush administration’s belief, in a brief, that the Supreme Court decision on abortion should be overturned. Abortion rights groups have seized on this in opposing his nomination.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 59 percent of those surveyed said the Senate should confirm Roberts while 23 percent said it should not. The remaining 18 percent expressed no opinion.
But 64 percent of those surveyed said Roberts should explain his views on abortion before the Senate acts on his nomination.
© Reuters 2005