- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

The White House yesterday angered Democrats by asking for more time to respond to congressional requests for testimony from administration officials about the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

“It is disappointing that the White House is not coming forward with their plan to bring witnesses to testify,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “We hope that this delay is not a signal they will not cooperate.”

White House attorney Fred Fielding had told Democrats he would respond by the close of business yesterday.

“Given the importance of the issues under consideration and the presidential principles involved, we need more time to resolve them,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, threatened this week to issue subpoenas for White House officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove, if they do not agree to testify voluntarily.

Mr. Leahy has scheduled a vote Thursday to authorize the subpoenas, which Republicans support if the White House does not cooperate.

The panel has approved subpoenas for six of the eight fired prosecutors, as well as for five Justice Department officials.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, said his panel would vote next week to authorize subpoenas.

“The committee must take steps to ensure that we are not being stonewalled or slow-walked on this matter,” Mr. Conyers said.

Members of Congress want to know how involved the White House was in targeting eight U.S. attorneys for removal — which is within the president’s power to do — and also whether any were fired for improper reasons.

Some Democrats suspect the White House of removing attorneys who were investigating corruption cases involving Republican lawmakers.

Carol Lam, the fired U.S. attorney from Southern California, already had prosecuted one Republican congressman for accepting bribes and was reported to be expanding her investigation to include Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican.

Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who was convicted for taking $2.4 million in bribes, is now serving more than eight years in federal prison.

The White House’s version of events leading up to the firings changed again yesterday, after a second batch of internal government e-mails was released.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the conversation about potential firings of U.S. attorneys might not have been started by former White House attorney Harriet Miers, as he had said earlier this week.

Mr. Snow blamed “hazy memories” for the confusion.

E-mails released Monday showed that the White House was involved in the firings discussion for about two years, contradicting earlier statements under oath to Congress by Justice Department officials.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’ chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, resigned Monday. Mr. Gonzales said Mr. Sampson had been tasked with targeting specific attorneys for removal and had not informed his superiors of the White House’s involvement, leading to the inaccurate testimony.

Meanwhile, Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, yesterday became the second senator in his party to say that Mr. Gonzales should resign or be fired. Sen. John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, on Wednesday said President Bush should replace the attorney general. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, also said yesterday that Mr. Gonzales should resign.

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