Taking the fight to President Bush’s doorstep for the first time, the Senate and House Judiciary committees on Wednesday issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from key former White House aides involved in the firing of nine federal prosecutors in 2006.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) ordered former White House political director Sara Taylor to appear before the committee on July 11. He also ordered Taylor to provide any documents in her possession related to the prosecutor purge by June 28.
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) summoned former White House counsel Harriet Miers — now an attorney with Locke, Liddel & Sapp in Dallas — to appear before his committee on July 12. He ordered Miers to bring any documents in her possession related to the firing and evaluation of the dismissed U.S. attorneys to the hearing.
The two committees pointedly avoided issuing a subpoena to presidential adviser Karl Rove, who also has been implicated in the scandal. One senior Democratic aide said lawmakers were “trying to build an investigation” and the timing was not yet right for subpoenaing the White House political guru.
Both committees demanded White House documents related to the firing of the nine U.S. attorneys, which Democrats contend was improperly motivated by political considerations. The White House has maintained the firings were entirely appropriate.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the White House would “review the subpoenas and respond appropriately.”
“The committees can easily obtain the facts they want without this confrontational approach by simply accepting our offer for documents and interviews,” Fratto said. “But it’s clear that Senator Leahy and Representative Conyers are more interested in creating media drama than getting the facts.”
In a June 13 letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, Leahy requested “all documents in the possession, custody or control of the White House” relating to the scandal. The request covers communications between the White House and the Justice Department and any “reviews by White House staff” that caused Bush to state in March that nothing improper had occurred in the U.S. attorney firings.
The subpoenas come on the heels of another document dump by the Justice Department on Tuesday night. The documents further detailed the roles of Miers and Taylor in the firing scandal, especially in regards to the installation of interim U.S. Attorney for Arkansas Tim Griffin.
They signal a major escalation of the legal and political standoff between the Democratic Congress, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the White House.
“The White House cannot have it both ways — it cannot stonewall Congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses, while claiming nothing improper occurred,” Leahy commented.
“This subpoena is not a request, it is a demand on behalf of the American people,” Conyers added. “The breadcrumbs in this investigation have always led to 1600 Pennsylvania. This investigation will not end until the White House complies with the demands of this subpoena in a timely and reasonable manner so that we may get to the bottom of this.”