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Bush to claim executive privilege

Seeks to prevent aides' testimony

Today is the deadline for Karl Rove to testify. Today is the deadline for Karl Rove to testify.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is expected to claim executive privilege to prevent two more White House aides from testifying before Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors.

Today is the deadline for Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, to provide testimony and documents related to the firings, under a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Also subpoenaed was White House political aide J. Scott Jennings. The Justice Department included both men on e-mails about the firings and the administration's response to the congressional investigation.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding has consistently said that top presidential aides, present and past, are immune from subpoenas, and has declared the documents sought off-limits under executive privilege.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt citation against two other Bush confidants, Joshua B. Bolten, chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel. The House is expected to vote on the citation this fall, but the Justice Department has said it won't prosecute the two.

The controversy over the firings has grown into a larger dispute between Congress and the White House over the credibility of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Lawmakers have questioned whether Gonzales testified truthfully about the government's secret surveillance program.

Bush met with congressional leaders yesterday to press for action on a proposal to expand the surveillance program before Congress goes on recess at week's end.

The administration is pushing to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to allow surveillance without a warrant of terror suspects who are overseas. The proposal is designed to fix what the White House says is a glaring problem: missing foreign intelligence that could protect the country against terrorist attacks.

The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said he saw bipartisan willingness to get the legislation done before Congress recesses.

The White House responded with measured optimism. "I think they understand and appreciate the importance," Bush spokesman Tony Snow said of Democratic leaders. "We will see."

On spending, the Democrats and Bush appeared to get nowhere.

Bush has hinted at or threatened vetoes against most of the 12 annual spending bills for the next budget year, which begins Oct. 1. The differences between Bush and Congress involve $23 billion in funding -- a gap Democrats call small, and the White House portrays as wasteful.

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