Leahy threatens White House with subpoenas

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Your tax dollars fund Afghan child rape MORE (D-Vt.) Wednesday sent a strongly worded letter to President Bush’s counsel Fred Fielding and threatened to issue subpoenas if the White House continues to “stonewall” an investigation into its involvement in the firing of several U.S. attorneys.

“It appears from the evidence gathered by the Committee in five hearings, eight interviews with current and former officials from the Department of Justice and review of the limited documents produced by that Department that White House officials played a significant role in developing and implementing the plan for the dismissals,” Leahy said. “Indeed, the plan seems to have originated in the White House and was formulated by and with coordination of the White House political operation.”

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Leahy said the White House has not provided a single document and did not make available a single official to be interviewed as part of the investigation.

“There is evidence that White House officials were deeply involved in what appears to be an effort to impose political influence on federal law enforcement,” Leahy added. “If the White House continues its refusal to provide information to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voluntary basis, I will have no choice but to issue subpoenas to try to get to the truth in this matter.”

The chairman noted that Bush administration officials repeatedly have said that nothing improper took place in connection with the firings of the U.S. attorneys. However, Leahy argued, the White House also has not provided any evidence to support such a claim.

“The White House cannot have it both ways — it cannot withhold the documents and witnesses and thereby stonewall the investigation and, at the same time, claim that it knows of nothing improper,” Leahy said.

Late Tuesday, Leahy and ranking committee member Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) had sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, strongly criticizing him for being unresponsive to repeated requests and a subpoena for e-mails from top White House adviser Karl Rove.