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Leahy digs in heels on subpoenas

July 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday that he was ready to go to court if the White House resisted congressional subpoenas for information on the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

"If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press." He had been asked whether he would seek a congressional vote on contempt citations if President Bush did not comply. That move would push the matter to court.

"They've chosen confrontation rather than compromise or cooperation," Leahy said. "The bottom line on this U.S. attorneys' investigation is that we have people manipulating law enforcement. Law enforcement can't be partisan."

At issue is whether the White House exerted undue political influence in the Justice Department's firing of prosecutors. Leahy's hardening stance is pushing the Democratic-led investigation ever closer to a constitutional showdown over executive power and Congress' right to oversight.

The White House accused the committee of overreaching. "After thousands of pages of documents, interviews and testimony by Justice Department officials, it's clear that there's simply no merit for this overreach," Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said.

He said Leahy "is seeking access to candid and confidential deliberations from the president's advisors -- an intrusion he would never subject his own staff to. We have gone to great lengths to accommodate the committee in their oversight responsibilities."

Leahy dismissed a White House proposal for private briefings because, he said, it would foreclose Congress' right to subpoena additional information should officials fail to provide meaningful information.

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