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Democrats seek Gonzales probe, subpoena Rove
Democrats yesterday took double-barrel aim at the Bush administration, calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the attorney general and issuing subpoenas to presidential adviser Karl Rove and another top White House official.
“There is a cloud over this White House and a gathering storm,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who issued subpoenas for Mr. Rove to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 2 along with J. Scott Jennings, Mr. Rove’s deputy, in relation to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The White House responded that the only storm is a Democrat-controlled Congress that the administration said is overreaching its oversight responsibilities and is “more interested in headlines than doing the business Americans want them to do.”
Democratic senators, led by New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, yesterday asked Solicitor General Paul D. Clement to appoint a special prosecutor who would investigate whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has misled Congress or perjured himself in recent testimony.
But Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who has been highly critical of Mr. Gonzales, disagreed with the call for a special prosecutor.
“Senator Schumer’s not interested in looking at the record, he’s interested in throwing down the gauntlet and making a story in tomorrow’s newspapers,” Mr. Specter said.
The Justice Department responded with a statement that disclosed more information than Mr. Gonzales was willing to give in his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Most of Mr. Gonzales’ testimony under questioning revolved around disagreement within the Justice Department in March 2004 over surveillance activity by the government aimed at tracking terrorist activity.
Mr. Gonzales repeatedly said that the disagreement was not related to a specific Terrorist Surveillance Program that “the president announced to the American people.”
President Bush in December 2005 disclosed that the National Security Agency had been conducting warrantless wiretaps on phone calls to and from the United States by suspected terrorists.
Senators grew angry Tuesday when Mr. Gonzales, despite past statements that seemingly contradicted his testimony, insisted that the 2004 disagreement was related to “other intelligence activities.”
A Justice Department spokesman shed some light on the cause of the dispute between Mr. Gonzales and then-acting Attorney General James Comey. “The disagreement that occurred in March 2004 concerned the legal basis for intelligence activities that have not been publicly disclosed and that remain highly classified,” said Brian Roehrkasse.
Democratic leaders have also taken issue with Mr. Gonzales’ characterization of a March 2004 meeting in which he said he informed a group of eight congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans, of Mr. Comey’s objections.
A majority of the congressional leaders told him to move forward with the program, Mr. Gonzales said. However, three top Democrats this week have disputed Mr. Gonzales’ account of the White House meeting.
The subpoena of Mr. Rove is the latest in a separate showdown between Congress and the White House. Democrats have already subpoenaed other White House officials, and Mr. Bush has invoked executive privilege, saying that he cannot allow his ability to receive “candid advice” from aides to be compromised.
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