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House finds Bolten, Miers in contempt of Congress

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/house-finds-white-house-officials-in-contempt-of-congress-2008-02-14.html House finds Bolten, Miers in contempt of Congress
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2008

      House finds Bolten, Miers in contempt of Congress
      By Alexander Bolton and Klaus Marre
      Posted: 02/14/08 02:21 PM [ET]

      The House voted Thursday to hold White House Chief of
      Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel
      Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress for refusing to
      testify before a panel investigating the firing of
      several United States attorneys.

      Ahead of the vote, Republicans had walked out in an
      effort to show that they want to work on a permanent
      update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
      (FISA) rather than be part of a “partisan fishing
      expedition,” as House Minority Leader John Boehner
      (R-Ohio) put it.

      The contempt vote raises the stakes between the White
      House and Congress in the battle over the fired U.S.
      attorneys and could set up a constitutional showdown
      between the legislative and executive branches.

      The matter will now be referred to the U.S. attorney
      for the District of Columbia.

      If the fight comes to a head without a compromise
      having been reached, it could pit Congress’s power to
      hold White officials in contempt against the
      president’s right to assert executive privilege.

      Democrats passed two resolutions through the adoption
      of a single rule, a procedural tactic that limited the
      time of debate, angering Republicans. One resolution
      holds Bolten and Miers in contempt. The second sets
      the stage for a civil suit the House would file
      against the administration to compel it to force
      Bolten and Miers to testify.

      “I hope this administration will realize this Congress
      is serious about its constitutional role of
      oversight,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

      Pelosi, who stated that she “had hoped that this day
      would never have come,” added that, if White House
      officials instruct Department of Justice attorneys not
      to prosecute the contempt citations, “we will have
      power to go to federal court and seek civil
      enforcement of our subpoenas.”

      Republicans argued that Congress should not seek a
      showdown with the White House on the issue, claiming
      that losing the case would hurt the legislative branch
      in the long run.

      Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said the case “creates
      the potential to undermine the power of the first
      branch of government.”

      Members of both parties drew up nightmare scenarios,
      with Dreier indicating that losing a court case on the
      issue would make Congress a lesser branch, while Rep.
      Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said not acting now would
      embolden future presidents to exert executive
      privilege more often.

      The House acted Thursday after months of negotiations
      between Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of
      the Judiciary Committee, and White House officials,
      and Pelosi blasted the Bush administration for

      The White House offered to allow House investigators
      to question Bolten and Miers privately under strict
      conditions. Investigators would not have been allowed
      to make a transcript of the examination or copy
      documents. The House also would have had to agree not
      to seek further information, said Democrats.

      Democratic leaders rejected the conditions out of
      hand, arguing that no lawyer would agree to such

      “This is beyond arrogance,” said Pelosi. “It’s hubris
      taken to the ultimate degree.”

      Conyers said he had already discovered “plenty of
      evidence of wrongdoing at the Department of Justice.
      He said officials made the decision to fire attorneys
      on the basis of whether they had pursued public
      corruption charges against Democratic government
      officials. He also said that Justice officials made
      misleading statements to investigators minimizing the
      apparent involvement of White House personnel in the

      Republicans blasted the move and its timing, with Rep.
      Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member of the
      Judiciary Committee, calling the contempt measure an
      act of extreme partisanship.

      Many GOP lawmakers also accused the Democratic
      leadership of wasting time on the contempt charges
      instead of passing the FISA update.

      “On the eve of the expiration of critical intelligence
      legislation, the House Democratic Majority has chosen
      to put extreme partisanship ahead of our country’s
      safety,” Smith said. “Apparently, the Democratic
      majority cares more about the alleged steroid use of a
      few baseball players and the personnel decisions of
      the White House than they do about promoting national security.”
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