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Pelosi wants Bush aides investigated

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080229/ap_on_go_co/congress_contempt Pelosi wants Bush aides investigated By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 43 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080229/ap_on_go_co/congress_contempt

      Pelosi wants Bush aides investigated

      By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 43
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the
      Justice Department on Thursday to open a grand jury
      investigation into whether President Bush's chief of
      staff and former counsel should be prosecuted for
      contempt of Congress.

      Pelosi, D-Calif., demanded that the department pursue
      misdemeanor charges against former White House counsel
      Harriet Miers for refusing to testify to Congress
      about the firings of federal prosecutors in 2006 and
      against chief of staff Josh Bolten for failing to turn
      over White House documents related to the dismissals.

      She gave Attorney General Michael Mukasey one week to
      respond and said refusal to take the matter to a grand
      jury will result in the House's filing a civil lawsuit
      against the Bush administration.

      The White House branded the request as "truly
      contemptible." The Justice Department said it had
      received Pelosi's request and anticipated providing
      further guidance after Mukasey's review. It noted
      "long-standing department precedent" in such cases
      against letting a U.S. attorney refer a congressional
      contempt citation to a grand jury or prosecute an
      executive branch. The top House Republican called it
      "a partisan political stunt" and "a complete waste of
      time," according to a spokesman.

      The Democratic-controlled House voted two weeks ago to
      hold Bolten and Miers in contempt for failing to
      cooperate with committee investigations.

      "There is no authority by which persons may wholly
      ignore a subpoena and fail to appear as directed
      because a president unilaterally instructs them to do
      so," Pelosi wrote Mukasey. She noted that Congress
      subpoenaed Miers to appear before the House Judiciary
      Committee, which is investigating the firings.

      "Surely, your department would not tolerate that type
      of action if the witness were subpoenaed to a federal
      grand jury," Pelosi wrote.

      She added: "Short of a formal assertion of executive
      privilege, which cannot be made in this case, there is
      no authority that permits a president to advise anyone
      to ignore a duly issued congressional subpoena for
      documents."

      Pelosi sent an additional letter to U.S. Attorney Jeff
      Taylor, the chief federal prosecutor for the District
      of Columbia, whose office would oversee the grand
      jury. The letters point to sections of federal law
      that require the Justice Department to bring the House
      contempt citations before a grand jury to investigate.

      At the White House, spokesman Tony Fratto said House
      Democrats "have been trying to redefine the notion of
      contempt and they succeeded."

      Both Fratto and House GOP leader John Boehner said the
      House should focus on passing legislation allowing the
      government to more easily eavesdrop on phone calls and
      e-mails of suspected terrorists.

      "Rather than passing critical national security
      legislation, they continue to squander time on
      partisan hijinx," Fratto said. Boehner spokesman
      Michael Steel said "this sort of pandering to the
      left-wing fever swamps of loony liberal activists does
      nothing to make America safer."

      The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep.
      John Conyers, said he hoped Pelosi's demand would spur
      the department to "put the partisan manipulation of
      our system of justice behind it" and take the issue to
      a grand jury. "To do otherwise would turn on its head
      the notion that we are all equally accountable under
      the law," said Conyers, D-Mich.

      But the department told the House leadership last July
      that it generally would not let a U.S. attorney make a
      grand jury referral or prosecute executive branch
      officials when they followed a president's instruction
      and invoked a claim of executive privilege before a
      congressional committee, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse
      said.

      The letter was the latest chapter in a yearlong saga
      that began with the firings of nine federal
      prosecutors and led to Alberto Gonzales' resignation
      as attorney general last August.

      The House voted 223-32 this month to hold Miers and
      Bolten in contempt for failing to cooperate with an
      inquiry into whether the prosecutors' firings were
      politically motivated. Angry Republicans boycotted the
      vote and staged a walkout in an unusually bitter scene
      even for the fractious House.

      At the time, the Bush administration was no less
      harsh, saying the information sought by the House was
      off-limits under executive privilege and that Bolten
      and Miers were immune from prosecution.

      It was the first time in 25 years that a full chamber
      of Congress voted on a contempt of Congress citation.
      The White House pointed out that it was the first time
      that such action had been taken against top White
      House officials who had been instructed by the
      president to remain silent to preserve executive
      privilege.

      ___

      Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to
      this report.
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