View Full Version : House Panel Files Historic Lawsuit To Enforce Subpoenas

03-11-2008, 08:35 AM
House panel files historic lawsuit to enforce subpoenas


By The Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit Monday to enforce subpoenas against President Bush's chief of staff and his former counsel in a probe of suspected White House involvement in the 2006 firings of nine federal prosecutors, including Seattle's John McKay.

The panel filed the federal court suit against Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff since April 2006, and Harriet Miers, who resigned as White House counsel in January 2007.

The committee's action marked the first time in U.S. history that either chamber of Congress has sued the executive branch to enforce a subpoena, according to a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee.

The filing comes after Democratic-led congressional hearings probed the firings, the Justice Department released thousands of internal e-mails and documents and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned.

Democrats say they've been forced to sue more than a year after they launched the probe because the administration refuses to allow Miers and Bolten to provide crucial information that would shed light on the reason for the firings.

The administration has denied any wrongdoing, and maintains that Congress has no compelling interest to see internal White House deliberations on the matter.

Congress' investigation into the firings produced suspicions but no proof that the prosecutors were targeted because they had rebuffed Republican demands that they bring weak voter-fraud cases against Democrats or because they had mounted corruption investigations of Republicans.

The lawsuit accuses administration officials of injecting partisan considerations into the firing decisions and making "questionable or outright false statements" in subsequent explanations to Congress.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines to hold Bolten and Miers in contempt and authorized the Judiciary Committee to ask a court to order them to testify if the Justice Department failed to issue criminal contempt citations.

But Attorney General Michael Mukasey said White House aides cannot be prosecuted because they were following legal advice from the Justice Department. He refused to refer the contempt citation to a grand jury.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the Judiciary Committee chairman, described Mukasey's refusal as "contrary to federal law" and said the panel filed the civil lawsuit to enforce the subpoenas.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, called the House's latest move "partisan theater" and criticized members of Congress for ignoring the White House's offer to allow the pair to be questioned behind closed doors but not under oath.