Bush administration bows on US attorney reforms as Judiciary Committee launches probe
According to some Democratic senators, the White House will not oppose legislation to change the rules for replacing US attorneys, reports the Associated Press. News of the Bush Administration's apparent acquiescence to the uproar that has arisen at what some have characterized as "political firings" comes on the same day that the Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into the matter.
"The administration would not object to the bill," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), speaking about a bill that would limit the ability of the executive branch to fill judiciary vacancies without Senate confirmation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee today met with US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who "agreed to let five of his top aides involved in the firings talk with the committee," writes the AP.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter today to the Department of Justice demanding more information about the fired attorneys.
Conyers said the attorney scandal may hint at a "much larger and wide-ranging problem at the Department of Justice and in the Administration as a whole."
"Six of the eight ousted prosecutors told House and Senate committees on Tuesday that they were dismissed without explanation," Laurie Kellman reports for the AP. "Some said the dismissals followed calls from members of Congress concerning sensitive political corruption investigations."
A press release from Conyers on the letter, released to RAW STORY, is below:
Judiciary Committee Launches Investigation into Fired U.S. Attorneys
Conyers and Sanchez Demand Documents, Interviews
(Washington, DC) - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding additional information about the ongoing U.S. Attorney scandal. Conyers and Sánchez asked for documents and interviews with Department officials to further their investigation into the issue.
"This week's hearing provided an important first look into what may be a much larger and wide-ranging problem at the Department of Justice and in the Administration as a whole," Conyers said. "Politics has no place in our federal justice system and if that, in fact, has been the case; and, if the Administration has been untruthful in their statements that these individuals were fired for performance reasons, we will find out."
"The testimony we heard this week at a hearing on the case of the fired U.S. Attorneys raised serious concerns about who is making the decision to fire these prosecutors, and why they're doing it," said Chairwoman Sánchez. "We need to cut through the multiple and contradictory reasons we've heard up to now and get to the truth."
The two lawmakers are requesting interviews with Paul McNulty, Deputy Attorney General; Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General; Michael Elston, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General; Michael Battle, Director, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; Monica Goodling, Senior Counsel to the Attorney General and Liaison to the White House; and, William Mercer, United States Attorney for Montana and Acting Associate Attorney General.
They are also looking for additional documents from the Department of Justice including communications between the Department and the White House about the firings; the Department and Members of Congress about the U.S. Attorneys and/or their firings; the Department and the U.S. Attorneys about their firings; and documents detailing all communication from and the names of those involved in the decision to terminate the U.S. Attorneys in question.
"I would like a timely and complete response from the Department by next Friday," Conyers said. "We are going to move forward with this investigation aggressively and would like to have the Department's full cooperation in order to do so."
The full letter is available at http://judiciary.house.gov.