Evan Perez reports on the link between J. Steven Griles guilty plea and Congress’s confrontation with the White House over executive privilege.

If there’s any doubt about the importance of getting a record of Senate investigative interviews, consider the case of J. Steven Griles.

[Jack Abramoff]
Griles, the former deputy Interior secretary, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington today to lying to Senate investigators when he was asked about the nature of his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was trying to help clients on matters before the Interior Department. Abramoff, in prison after pleading guilty to felony charges, has been aiding a wider investigation that has netted eight convictions or plea deals for the Justice Department.

A transcript of the Senate interview is what helped get Griles in trouble. (See the plea agreement.) Former White House aide David Safavian found himself in similar hot water, and was convicted earlier this year on charges that included lying to Senate investigators.

[Harriet Miers]
The importance isn’t lost on lawmakers who are pushing the White House to reconsider its insistence that President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and other aides can be interviewed only in private, not under oath and with no transcript.

House and Senate committees have approved subpoenas to try to compel public testimony, but officials are trying to negotiate a compromise to avoid a legal confrontation. President Bush staunchly defended his proposal and accused Democrats of trying to go on a “fishing expedition” with their threats of subpoenas.

Some Republicans find the White House’s stance hard to defend. Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) is among those trying to get the White House to at least allow a record of the interviews in order to help the Senate complete its investigation into the ouster of eight U.S. attorneys.