- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The White House today condemned House Democrats for hiring private attorneys to help them investigate the Bush administration, but Democrats responded that Republicans did the same thing many times during their 12 years in control of Congress, at a cost of $1.6 million.

“If they are going to spend $25,000 a month to hire a private law firm in Washington D.C., it’s only further evidence of what their intentions are,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “I think it’s to investigate, not legislate.”

The Washington Times first reported late Tuesday that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. had drawn up a contract with D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter, for $25,000 a month over nine months, in his probe of the eight fired federal prosecutors.

Mr. Conyers, however, told The Washington Times today in a prepared statement that “over the last twelve years under Republican control, House Committees entered into consultant contracts more than 40 times at a cost of more than $1.6 million.”

Mr. Conyers also said hiring outside help does not “cost the taxpayers any additional funds.”

“The budget of the Judiciary Committee is set by a vote of every member of the House, and this contract comes out of those funds,” Mr. Conyers said.

House Republicans shot back that Mr. Conyer’s calculations were based on committee contracts for work that paid staff could not already do.

“No idea where he got that data, but it definitely includes service contracts that are wholly unrelated to the issue at hand,” said an aide to the House Republican leadership.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department today acknowledged more inaccurate statements to Congress about the fired prosecutors, this time about presidential adviser Karl Rove’s involvement in the firings.

Justice sent a letter to Mr. Conyers and released 204 more pages of documents which appeared to show D. Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, preparing public talking points for Justice Department officials which contradicted prior statements made by himself in internal e-mails.

Mr. Sampson, who resigned earlier this month over the firings and has been blamed by Mr. Gonzales for inaccurate congressional testimony by top Justice officials, is scheduled to testify under oath tomorrow morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A source close to Mr. Sampson told The Washington Times yesterday that Mr. Sampson is “firmly convinced” that he has done nothing wrong, and for that reason is determined to appear before the Senate panel and answer questions.

However, the only revelation in the latest document dump from the Justice Department is that on Feb. 8, 2007, Mr. Sampson drew up a response to a letter sent that same day to Mr. Gonzales by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.

The Democrat’s letter asked why Bud Cummins, the former U.S. attorney for Arkansas’s eastern district, had been dismissed and replaced with J. Timothy Griffin, who had worked with Mr. Rove in the past.

Mr. Sampson, in drafting what then became a Feb. 23 letter in response, wrote, “I am not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the attorney general’s decision to appoint Griffin.”

However, on Dec. 19, 2006, Mr. Sampson wrote an e-mail to Mr. Gonzales’ chief counsel, Monica Goodling, in which he said “getting [Griffin] appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc.”

The latest Justice Department misstep may increase pressure on President Bush to step back from his position that Congress may not interview Mr. Rove and other administration officials in public, but only in private and with no oath and no transcript.

In related news, Mr. Conyers and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, sent a letter to the White House yesterday accusing Mr. Bush’s chief counsel, Fred F. Fielding, of not communicating with them for the last week.

The letter also requests e-mails from White House officials to the Justice Department and other third parties, and states that Democrats want to negotiate over internal White House documents at a later time

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