WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House's contempt citations against two of President Bush's top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet E. Miers had committed no crime.
As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she had given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.
Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or to testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.
"The [Justice] Department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers," Mukasey wrote Pelosi.
Pelosi (D-San Francisco) shot back that the aides can expect a lawsuit.
"The American people demand that we uphold the law," Pelosi said. "As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances, and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that."
The suit had a political purpose too. Democrats have urged that the filing occur swiftly so a judge might rule before the November election, when all 435 House seats and a third of the Senate at stake. Criticism of Bush's use of executive power is a key tenet of the Democrats' platform, from the presidential race on down.