- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

3:09 p.m.

In rapid succession, congressional committees today ramped up their investigations of the Bush administration by approving a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and granting immunity to a former key aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

By a 21-10 vote, the House oversight committee voted to issue a subpoena to Miss Rice to compel her story on the Bush administration’s claim, now discredited, that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

Moments earlier in the committee chamber next door, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-6 to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, Mr. Gonzales’ White House liaison, for her testimony on why the administration fired eight federal prosecutors. The panel also unanimously approved — but did not issue — a subpoena to compel her to appear.

Simultaneously across Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved — but did not issue — a subpoena on the prosecutor matter to Sara Taylor, deputy to presidential adviser Karl Rove.

The House oversight committee also issued subpoenas for the Republican National Committee (RNC) for testimony and documents about White House e-mails on RNC accounts that apparently have gone missing in violation of the law.

In case Mr. Gonzales thought the worst had passed with his testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman and top Republican issued a new demand: Refresh the memory that Mr. Gonzales claimed had failed him 71 times during the seven-hour session.

Writing to Mr. Gonzales today, Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and ranking Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania ordered: “Provide the answers to the questions you could not recall last Thursday.”

Mr. Specter’s letter underscored that Congress’ march against the administration isn’t driven solely by Democrats. Just six members of the House Judiciary Committee — all Republicans — voted against immunity for Miss Goodling. Several Republican lawmakers have lobbed harsh criticism at Mr. Gonzales in the two days since President Bush issued a fresh statement of support for him.

“I’ll be as vigilant as ever in overseeing the Justice Department and working with other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, for accountability from the attorney general and the department he leads,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

Democrats say they want to force into the open the story of why the eight U.S. attorneys were fired and whether they were singled out to influence corruption cases.

For his part, Mr. Gonzales tried to mend fences on Capitol Hill, meeting with a key critic, Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas Democrat, who has complained that the attorney general was not truthful with him over the dismissal of Bud Cummins, the former U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark.

His outreach apparently didn’t take.

“I reiterated with the attorney general, face-to-face, that I think he should resign,” Mr. Pryor told reporters in a conference call after meeting with Mr. Gonzales. “I think it’s the best thing for the Department of Justice, and it’s probably the best thing for him personally and the administration.”

On the uranium issue, Miss Rice’s allies maintained that she has for years answered Congress’ questions under oath as well as press inquiries about her knowledge of the veracity of Mr. Bush’s claim about uranium.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said Miss Rice was “giving us no choice but to proceed with a subpoena.”

Even as he pressed ahead on Miss Rice, Mr. Waxman postponed a vote on issuing a subpoena to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. on the same issue, saying White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding had made a compromise proposal worth pursuing. Under it, the committee would first talk to the White House office of administration about Mr. Card’s knowledge of the uranium claim.

On the prosecutor firings, the House Judiciary Committee approved two measures that would compel Miss Goodling’s testimony and grant her immunity from prosecution.

At the Justice Department, spokesman Dean Boyd declined comment on the House panel’s vote to give Miss Goodling immunity. He said he would not speculate on whether giving her immunity could tie prosecutors’ hands should evidence of criminal activity surface.

The investigation into the prosecutors’ firings spawned another probe into whether White House aides conducted official business on the RNC e-mail account, then deleted the e-mails in violation of law requiring all presidential records to be preserved.

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