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Mukasey refuses probe of Bush aides

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080301/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/congress_contempt Mukasey refuses probe of Bush aides By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer 35
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080301/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/congress_contempt

      Mukasey refuses probe of Bush aides

      By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer 35 minutes
      ago

      WASHINGTON - Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused
      Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against
      two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand
      jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh
      Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers
      committed no crime.

      As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that
      she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to
      file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal
      court.

      "The House shall do so promptly," she said in a
      statement.

      Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring
      subpoenas to provide Congress with White House
      documents or testify about the firings of federal
      prosecutors.

      "The department will not bring the congressional
      contempt citations before a grand jury or take any
      other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers,"
      Mukasey wrote Pelosi.

      Pelosi shot back that the aides can expect a lawsuit.

      "The American people demand that we uphold the law,"
      Pelosi said. "As public officials, we take an oath to
      uphold the Constitution and protect our system of
      checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do
      just that."

      The suit had a political purpose too. Democrats have
      urged that the filing occur swiftly so that a judge
      might rule before the November elections, when all 435
      House seats and a third of the Senate are up for
      grabs. Criticism of Bush's use of executive power is a
      key tenet of the Democrats' platform, from the
      presidential race on down.

      The House voted two weeks ago to cite Bolten and Miers
      for contempt of Congress and seek a grand jury
      investigation. Most Republicans boycotted the vote.

      Pelosi requested the grand jury investigation on
      Thursday and gave Mukasey a week to reply. She said
      the House would file a civil suit seeking enforcement
      of the contempt citations if federal prosecutors
      declined to seek misdemeanor charges against Bolten
      and Miers. The plaintiffs would be the entire
      Judiciary Committee, who would be represented by the
      House's lawyers, according to aides to Pelosi and
      committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.

      Mukasey took only a day to get back to her. But he had
      earlier joined his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, in
      telling lawmakers they would refuse to refer any
      contempt citations to prosecutors because Bolten and
      Miers were acting at Bush's instruction.

      A civil suit would drag out a slow-motion crawl to a
      constitutional struggle between a Democratic-run
      Congress and a Republican White House that has been
      simmering for more than a year.

      Democrats say Bush's instructions to Miers and Bolten
      to ignore the House Judiciary Committee's subpoenas
      was an abuse of power and an effort to block an effort
      to find out whether the White House directed the
      firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 for political
      reasons.

      Republicans call the whole affair a political game and
      walked out of the House vote on the contempt citations
      in protest.

      The 223-32 House vote on a resolution approving the
      contempt citations Feb. 14 was the first of its type
      in 25 years. 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.

      In his letter, received by the House early Friday
      evening, Mukasey pointed out that not only was Miers
      directed not to testify, she also was immune from
      congressional subpoenas and was right to not show up
      to the hearing to which she had been summoned.

      "The contempt of Congress statute was not intended to
      apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an
      executive branch official who asserts the president's
      claim of executive privilege," Mukasey wrote, quoting
      Justice policy.

      "Accordingly," Mukasey concluded, "the department has
      determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and
      Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did
      not constitute a crime."

      Though they were not surprised, Democrats reacted to
      Mukasey's letter with outrage.

      "Today's decision to shelve the contempt process, in
      violation of a federal statute, shows that the White
      House will go to any lengths to keep its role in the
      U.S. attorney firings hidden," said Conyers. "In the
      face of such extraordinary actions, we have no choice
      but to proceed with a lawsuit to enforce the
      committee's subpoenas."
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