House subcommittee subpoenas Bush officials


Richard Moore

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House Panel Subpoenas Fired US Attorneys    €
    Go to Original
    Democrats Send Out First Round of Subpoenas
    By Susan Crabtree
    The Hill
    Thursday 01 March 2007

A House Judiciary subcommittee approved today the first in what is expected to 
be an avalanche of subpoenas to Bush administration officials. They will likely 
explore corruption and mismanagement allegations on everything from pre-war Iraq
intelligence to the mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The first round of subpoenas concern the recent controversial firings by the 
Bush administration of seven U.S. attorneys, some of whom were pursuing public 
corruption cases against Republican members of Congress.

The House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law, chaired 
by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), approved subpoenas requiring four former U.S. 
attorneys to appear at a subcommittee hearing next Tuesday. The former U.S. 
attorneys include Carol Lam of California, David Iglesias of New Mexico, H.E. 
Cummins III of Arkansas, and John McKay of Washington state. The subcommittee 
approved the subpoenas by voice vote; no Republican lawmakers were present.

Tuesday's hearing will consider a bill by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) that 
would reverse a new Patriot Act provision allowing the attorney general to 
appoint federal prosecutors without Senate confirmation through the duration of 
the Bush administration.

Democrats have come to the defense of several dismissed prosecutors, in 
particular Lam and Cummins of Arkansas. They have noted that Lam was leading the
probe of ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), while Cummins was removed 
to make room for a former aide to White House senior adviser Karl Rove. Other 
U.S. attorneys, including those in Nevada and Arizona, were acting on corruption
charges against GOP lawmakers before their resignations were requested.

Iglesias, a New Mexico U.S. attorney, asserted at a press conference yesterday 
that he was fired for purely political reasons. He also charged that prior to 
the November elections, two federal elected officials asked him to speed up the 
probes of local politicians.

Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have expressed outrage over
the firings. She and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have demanded to see the 
attorneys' performance evaluations.

The White House has denied that the attorneys were fired for anything other than
performance-related issues. And Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Jon Kyl 
(R-Ariz.), have argued that Democrats are making up a controversy where none 

After the vote on the subpoenas, Sanchez took exception to the White House's 
assertions that they can fire the attorneys because they are "at will" 

There are several exceptions when an "at-will" employee cannot be fired, Sanchez
asserted, such as sex or race discrimination.

"There are several public policy reasons why we don't fire people," she said. 
"Are these people being [fired] because they're doing their jobs and they're 
doing them to well? Is this an ideological purge?"

She went on to stress the importance of a judiciary branch that is separate and 
independent from the executive branch.

"When the executive branch is interfering in the justice system - in other 
countries we call that corruption," she said. "It's very troubling to me that 
there seems to be this undercurrent."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) also weighed today, with a 
speech on the House floor.

"So this Administration either originally hired incompetent attorneys in the 
first place, or hired competent U.S. Attorneys, but incompetently fired them. 
Which is it?" he asked. "Many Americans believe these U.S. Attorneys are not 
being fired because they failed to go after public corruption, but because they 
did and were successful."

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment by press time. 
It has opposed a Senate bill similar to Berman's. A senior administration 
official also previously told The Hill that Democrats were trying to create a 
scandal where there isn't one.

"This sounds to me a little more like Democrats trying to play politics and use 
the S-word than it does trying to obtain substantive information," the official 


    Go to Original
    House Panel Subpoenas Fired US Attorneys
    By Dan Eggen and Paul Kane
    The Washington Post
    Friday 02 March 2007

Democrats issued their first major subpoenas yesterday since taking control of 
Congress, as a House subcommittee voted to compel testimony from four former 
U.S. attorneys who were part of a wave of firings by the Justice Department.

The Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law approved the 
subpoenas for former prosecutors in Arkansas, New Mexico, Seattle and San Diego 
- all of whom will be required to appear for testimony at a hearing Tuesday. The
Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans for a similar hearing on the same 

The moves mark the latest escalation in the battle between congressional 
Democrats and the Justice Department over the controversial dismissals of eight 
U.S. attorneys, at least five of whom were presiding over public corruption 
probes when they were fired.

"Are these people being removed for doing their job and for it doing it too 
well?" asked Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the panel, who 
called the subpoenas "a last resort."

The controversy, which has been simmering for two months, boiled over this week 
after departing prosecutor David C. Iglesias of New Mexico alleged that two 
unnamed lawmakers had pressured him to speed up the prosecution of Democrats 
before the November elections. Iglesias said he believed that complaints from 
the lawmakers may have led to his dismissal, an allegation the Justice 
Department has disputed.

The state's top two Democrats, Rep. Tom Udall and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and Rep. 
Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) have denied calling Iglesias. Rep. Heather A. Wilson 
(R-N.M.) and Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) have not responded to requests for 
comment over the past two days and deflected questions from the Associated Press
about the allegations.

"I don't have any comment," Domenici said. "I have no idea what he's talking 

Wilson referred questions "on that personnel matter" to the Justice Department.

Sanchez said any such contacts by a member of Congress would likely be in 
violation of House and Senate ethics rules that restrict such "ex parte 
communications" during ongoing criminal investigations.

Iglesias's office was conducting a probe into allegations involving construction
contracts and a prominent Democratic former state senator.

At the time of the alleged phone calls, Wilson, a close ally of Domenici's, was 
in a tight reelection battle with then-state Attorney General Patricia Madrid. 
Wilson won by fewer than 2,000 votes.

Iglesias said yesterday that he will identify the lawmakers only if compelled by
a subpoena.

"I fear retaliation," said Iglesias, a Republican and former military defense 
lawyer who served as a model for a character in the movie "A Few Good Men." 
"This is a small state and there are not too many employment opportunities, and 
I fear they will blacklist me."

At least four of the other U.S. attorneys were presiding over probes targeting 
Republican politicians at the time they were notified of their firing.

Although a separate House subcommittee has compelled testimony in a 
little-noticed drug inquiry, the prosecutors case marks the first major use of 
subpoena power by the new Democratic majority.

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that the department has been "very 
forthcoming" with Congress about the dismissals and that any allegations that 
prosecutors were removed to interfere with investigations are "completely 

Justice officials have said Iglesias and six others were fired for 
"performance-related" reasons and have denied that any were targeted to disrupt 
public corruption probes. Officials have acknowledged that an eighth prosecutor,
Bud Cummins of Little Rock, was removed to make way for a former aide to 
presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Cummins and former U.S. attorney John McKay of Seattle said in interviews that 
they told lawmakers they will not testify unless subpoenas are issued.

"I wanted it clear that I wasn't volunteering to testify and I wasn't trying to 
affirmatively stir up trouble for everybody," said Cummins, who left in 
December. "If they would like to hear one of the few facts I have, I'm happy to 
tell them."

The other former prosecutor scheduled to testify, Carol S. Lam of San Diego, did
not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

No Republicans showed up for the unanimous panel vote on issuing the subpoenas. 
The Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), later 
called the session "political grandstanding."

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