Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Justice Demanding Justice

March 10, 2008 Press Release:

(Washington, DC) - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives General Counsel filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the House Judiciary Committee to enforce subpoenas issued by the committee seeking information on the U.S. Attorney firings. The defendants in the case are former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten who were cited by the House for contempt of Congress last month. Last week, the Justice Department refused to present the House-passed contempt citations to a grand jury, contrary to federal law. Based on the House resolution that also found Bolten and Miers in comtempt, the committee is now filing the civil lawsuit to enforce the subpoenas.

"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."

Miers and Bolten violated their obligations under committee subpoenas by refusing to appear before the committee or to provide subpoenaed documents. The lawsuit was filed this morning in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and will be served on Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolton. The Judiciary Committee, as plaintiff, is asking the court to find the following:

(1) Ms. Miers is not “immune” from the obligation to appear before the committee in response to a duly authorized, issued and served committee subpoena;

(2) Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten must produce privilege logs identifying all documents withheld on grounds of executive privilege;

(3) Executive privilege does not cover documents not involving the president or undertaken directly in preparation for advising the president or whose contents are widely-known, previously released or previously the subject of extensive, authorized testimony, and that Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s claims of executive privilege are, in any event, overcome by the committee’s compelling need for the subpoenaed testimony and documents.

(4) that Ms. Miers is required to appear before the committee to respond to questions put to her pertinent to the investigation and to invoke executive privilege only if and when appropriate;

(5) that Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten are required to provide, as required by the subpoenas, a detailed privilege log, identifying by author, recipient, date and subject matter those documents responsive to the subpoena that have been withheld on executive privilege grounds;

(6) that Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten are required to produce all non-privileged documents responsive to the subpoenas.

"I do not take this step lightly," Conyers said. "It is extremely rare that Congress must litigate in order to enforce subpoenas and no compromise can be reached. Unfortunately, this administration simply will not negotiate towards a compromise resolution so we must proceed. I look forward to a quick and favorable ruling by the court, so that we can complete our investigation."

The civil lawsuit is the latest step in the year-long investigation into the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys and related matters. Nearly one dozen Justice Department officials have resigned since evidence in the investigation became public, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Documents turned over by the department indicate that the White House played a substantial role in the development and execution of the plan to force U.S. attorneys to resign.

Contempt Complaint

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