Several Senators, a pair of Cabinet officials and the White House chief of staff may be facing subpoenas to testify in the trial of a California businessman accused of bribing former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), according to documents filed by the House general counsel in a California court Tuesday.
Celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos is representing Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who faces bribery and conspiracy charges for allegedly giving Cunningham hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gifts and favors, including lavish meals and travel, boats and antiques and the services of two prostitutes in exchange for Cunningham’s efforts to direct Defense Department contracts to Wilkes’ company. Cunningham is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for accepting bribes from Wilkes and others.
Thirteen Members of Congress — House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Jerry Weller (R-Ill.), John Murtha (D-Pa.), Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) — announced last week that they had been subpoenaed for testimony and documents in the case.
In a motion to quash the subpoenas for 12 of the Members — the subpoena for Skelton has been withdrawn, his office said — the House general counsel’s office noted that Wilkes’ attorneys had said they also were going to subpoena Sens. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) as well as White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.
The White House did not immediately return a call requesting comment on the Bolten subpoena, and Geragos also has not responded to requests for comment on his subpoenas.
The House’s motion to quash argues that there were so many technical flaws in the subpoenas, and Wilkes’ attorneys have provided so little information about what they are seeking, that “it seems likely that the subpoenas were issued for some reason(s) other than securing testimony or documentary evidence at trial.”
According to the House counsel’s motion, the subpoenas for Hunter and Lewis sought, among other things, “documents evidencing bribes ‘offered to you or accepted by you.’” Other Members were served in their personal capacities but the subpoenas sought committee documents, the House motion claims.
Though Geragos has not explained his defense strategy, it appears that the subpoenas are demanding information about the appropriations and earmarking process, and the motion for the 12 House Members argues that in general, the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause “provides an absolute privilege against compelled disclosure of the legislative information and records which Mr. Wilkes seeks.”