- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

House Democrats yesterday subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales for additional Justice Department records that they say they need to determine whether eight federal prosecutors were fired illegally or improperly last year.

“This information is clearly relevant to our inquiry into indications that U.S. attorneys and candidates may have been evaluated based on improper considerations, including their willingness to make decisions as to prosecution of public corruption cases,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, said in a letter to Mr. Gonzales.

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department had provided “an extraordinary amount of information to the Congress” already, and signaled that it would try to negotiate with Democrats before turning over all the subpoenaed documents.

Congressional staffers have been allowed to review the subpoenaed documents, but only at the Justice Department and without taking notes or making copies.

Mr. Conyers wants Justice to release information blacked out on about 3,400 pages of documents. Most of the redacted information pertains to which U.S. attorneys “were considered for termination but were ultimately retained,” Mr. Conyers said.

Mr. Roehrkasse said that “because there are individual privacy interests implicated by publicly releasing this information, it is unfortunate the Congress would choose this option.”

“In light of these concerns, we will continue to work closely with congressional staff and we still hope and expect that we will be able to reach an accommodation with the Congress,” Mr. Roehrkasse said.

Mr. Roehrkasse pointed out that the Justice Department has released the 3,400 pages of documents and made several top Justice officials available for interviews with congressional staff. In addition, Mr. Gonzales’ former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned over the firings, testified for seven hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

Mr. Conyers said that Justice “is currently withholding signification information.” His letter states that the department’s response in providing information has been incomplete and “falls short of what is needed.”

The subpoena instructs Mr. Gonzales to turn over the information by Monday, one day before Mr. Gonzales is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Spokesmen for Mr. Conyers did not respond to a request for an interview or for a fuller explanation of how the information subpoenaed would help ferret out any illegalities. Democrats say that several of the fired U.S. attorneys were investigating Republican politicians for corruption when they were dismissed, but they have offered no proof that the Bush administration fired them for that reason.

The Justice Department has said that seven of the eight attorneys were fired for performance-related reasons.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to comment on the subpoena after having had a chance to review the document.

Republicans decried the subpoena as political grandstanding.

“I’ve seen no compelling reason why a subpoena is necessary at this time to facilitate the investigation. These subpoenas have more to do with TV coverage than uncovering the facts,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican and ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee.

An aide to Senate Republican leaders said he found it interesting that Democrats had time to issue subpoenas during their recess but did not have time to work on a supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq.

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