White House May Be In Contempt Of Congress

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It's no secret the Executive branch has contempt FOR Congress, but now they may be in Contempt OF Congress.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys last year.

The deadline for a response is Thursday, June 28. If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches. In an ironic twist, the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be called on to enforce the contempt motion.

During yesterday’s testimony by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, panel Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) asked McNulty whether he would enforce such a motion. McNulty responded that he would recuse himself from handling such matters because of an internal DoJ investigation into the U.S. attorneys matter.

One of the contempt motions would likely be directed at Presidential Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, to whom the subpoena for documents was addressed, according to a Democratic aide.

Others who could face contempt motions include ex-White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena testimony from Miers, while the Senate Judiciary panel voted to subpoena testimony from Taylor.

“The House and Senate judiciary committees have issued subpoenas to the White House for documents and testimony,” said Conyers. “We’re still hopeful they may cooperate. But it’s still possible that enforcement action may be taken.”

Democrats have been unsatisfied with the testimony they’ve heard so far from top officials and former officials at the DoJ, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Under questioning, all have said either that their roles were limited or that they were not directly responsible for suggesting certain U.S. attorneys be placed on the firing list.

Because of these claims, Conyers said, Democrats’ only choice is to seek more information from the White House.

“We want to know where the lines go from the DoJ to the White House,” he said. “That’s where these bread crumbs keep leading us and then they get lost in the snow or something.”

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