House leaders reach deal on subpoenas

House leaders will not fight subpoenas for information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego stemming from a criminal investigation into activities related to the bribery case against Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), according to a release by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office yesterday.

The chairmen of three committees involved, working with the House General Counsel’s office, have been negotiating for the last two months about how to respond to subpoenas for documents the U.S. Attorney sent the House Appropriations, Armed Services and Intelligence panels late last year.

It was unclear at press time how much GOP ranking members of the committees were consulted about which documents to hand over.

A Democratic leadership aide insisted that Republicans were consulted because it involved “their documents.”

But Brian Kennedy, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said his boss was not kept in the loop during any part of the negotiation process.

“We were not party to or made aware of any of the agreements,” he said.

That is a distinct departure to what happened last year after the FBI raided the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), when the leadership of both parties invoked the Speech Debate Clause of the Constitution.

“… Because all of the information being provided to the U.S. Attorney is privileged under the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution, the committees have agreed to decline to assert the privilege with respect to that information,” the statement from Pelosi’s office said.

“The agreements permit the committees to cooperate with the investigation in a manner that respects the constitutional prerogatives of the House and does not impair the committees’ functioning or compromise their legislative and oversight responsibilities,” the release said.

The negotiations went so smoothly that the U.S. attorney’s office withdrew the subpoenas and the committees have already handed over some of the documents requested.

Elizabeth Phillips, an Appropriations staffer, and Rebecca Kuhn, who formerly worked as Cunningham’s executive assistant, were also subpoenaed to testify. They are scheduled to testify tomorrow before a grand jury, according to the statement.

“Under the agreements, the five outstanding subpoenas – one to each of the three committees for documents, one to a current committee staffer for testimony, and one to a former committee staffer for testimony — have been withdrawn,” said the statement. “The committee have agreed to voluntarily provide the Department [of Justice] with copies of some documents immediately (which has already happened), and to voluntarily provide the Department with access to other documents over the next several weeks.”

Pelosi also said although she was aware of the negotiations, she was not actively involved in them and that “all decisions were made by the committee themselves.”

“The current committee chairmen took the same cooperative approach toward the Office of the U.S. Attorney as did the committee chairmen in the last Congress,” she said.