D. Cupples (photo from Judiciary Committee) | Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee filed a civil suit against White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bloten and ex-White House counsel Harriet Miers because they failed to comply with subpoenas regarding the committee's probe of the firing of U.S. Attorneys. (See complaint)
Last month, the House voted to hold Miers and Bolten in contempt of Congress. Last week, the Justice Department refused to present the contempt citations to a grand jury, which federal law requires. A statement by Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers sums up why this issue is important:
"'We will not allow the administration to steamroll Congress,' Conyers said. 'Under our system of checks and balances, Congress provides oversight of the executive branch to make sure that government power is not abused. The administration’s extreme claims to be immune from the oversight process are at odds with our constitutional principles on which this country was founded, and I am confident the federal courts will agree.'" (press release)
Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees investigated the possible politicization of our Justice Department for months, and Bush Adminsitration officials were generally not all that cooperative. When ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified about the U.S. Attorney firings, for example, he said some variation of "I don't recall" more than 60 times.
Evidence uncovered starting in 2007 suggests that the U.S. Justice Department has based prosecutions (and refusals to prosecute) on political considerations -- as in, going after political enemies and turning a blind eye to political friends. That's a major no-no for any law-enforcement agency.
Since the congressional committees began their investigation, about a dozen high ranking Justice Department officials have resigned (including ex-AG Gonzales and his deputy Paul McNulty).
Two Democratic governors have now been caught up in Justice Department investigations of questionable origin: Don Siegelman (Alabama), who is now in prison; and, more recently, Eliot Spitzer (New York).
Spitzer, just yesterday, was linked to a prostitution ring (NY Times). Spitzer has not denied guilt, but questions are arising about when and why Justice officials even began investigating Spitzer (Harpers).
Memeorandum has commentary.
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