White House assails lawmakers over contempt charges


Published: Wednesday July 25, 2007

The White House lashed out Wednesday at "pathetic" lawmakers on a key committee for approving rare contempt of Congress charges as a potentially serious constitutional showdown escalated.

"What you have right now is partisanship on Capitol Hill that quite often boils down to insults, insinuations, inquisitions and investigations," spokesman Tony Snow said after the party-line vote.

"In our view, this is pathetic," Snow said as the White House mounted a fierce counter-offensive in the wake of the House Judiciary Committee's charges against top advisers to US President George W. Bush.

The committee voted 22-17 to send the contempt citations against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former legal counsel Harriet Miers to the full House of Representatives, controlled by Bush's Democratic foes.

The move significantly raised the stakes in a legal row between lawmakers and Bush over the firings of a group of at least eight federal prosecutors. Critics say the lawyers were sacked for political reasons.

Snow, who accused the Democrats of indulging in cheap political theater, also showed a graphic claiming that a stack of the papers the White House had given Congress in the case would reach twice the height of the White House.

The spokesman also strongly suggested that the US Department of Justice, headed by longtime Bush confidant Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, would not enforce the contempt charges.

Snow approvingly quoted a Democratic senator under similar circumstances calling contempt charges "a fruitless endeavor" because they were unlikely to be enforced, and said "this is not likely to go anywhere."

"Nevertheless, that is a decision to be made by the Department of Justice," Snow said. "We don't choose the response. The Department of Justice will handle the referral."