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House Panel Authorizes Subpoenas for Bush Aides

A House panel Wednesday approved subpoenas for Bush administration officials, including Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Kyle Sampson, in the investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, but held off issuing them in hopes of avoiding a constitutional confrontation with the White House.

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    Despite the president's warning of a constitutional showdown if Congress tried to force White House staff to testify about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, a House Judiciary subcommittee this morning took the first step toward doing just that, authorizing the use of subpoenas.

    Chairwoman Linda Sanchez said Congress was left with no choice.

    REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), California: After two months of stonewalling, shifting stories, and misleading testimony, it is clear that we are still not getting the truth about the decision to fire these prosecutors and its cover-up. There must be accountability.


    By a voice vote, the subcommittee approved — though it has yet to issue — subpoenas for White House political adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, along with their deputies.

    Also targeted was the former chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, who resigned last week after the controversy over the firings exploded.

    Yesterday, current White House counsel Fred Fielding tried to head off the subpoena vote by offering House and Senate Judiciary Committee members private interviews with Rove and Miers. But Massachusetts Democrat Bill Delahunt said the specific terms under which those interviews would be conducted were unacceptable.

    REP. BILL DELAHUNT (D), Massachusetts: To insist that these interviews be conducted privately, not under oath, and with no transcript, I would suggest is borders on insulting to this committee and to this Congress.


    Most Republicans on the committee voted against authorizing subpoenas. Florida's Tom Feeney said the Justice Department has been cooperative in the congressional investigation and said negotiations with the White House should continue.

    REP. TOM FEENEY (R), Florida: Just yesterday, the Department of Justice put some 3,000 documents in front of us in what appears to be an effort to comply and comply in full. It seems that this subpoena is very much premature. And while we have the power to do things to the other branches of government, it doesn't necessarily mean that we need to leave all mutual respect for our fellow branches in the dust.


    Shortly after the House vote, President Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, said if the subpoenas were to be issued, the White House offer would be pulled off the table. He urged Democrats to review it again.

  • TONY SNOW, White House Press Secretary:

    It's a reasonable and extraordinary effort on our part to help Congress do its job and also to do it in a way that is consistent with dignity, respect between the two branches of government, and getting at the truth.


    Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who also has rejected the White House offer, said his panel will authorize the issuance of subpoenas tomorrow.

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: Let's have it in public. Let's find out what's going on, allow both Republicans and Democrats to ask the questions, have them under oath, and clear this matter up.


    Ranking Republican Arlen Specter predicted a prolonged constitutional fight if no compromise with the White House is reached.

    SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), Pennsylvania: Now, if we have a confrontation between the president and the Congress, and we go to court — which is the way these matters have been resolved if there can't be an accommodation — we face very, very long delays.


    A decision by the congressional committee chairmen to formally issue subpoenas could come next week.