March 21, 2007
Contact:
Leah Yoon, NPR
 | 

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT),
CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
TELLS NPR NEWS
WHITE HOUSE AIDES MUST TESTIFY
UNDER OATH ON FIRINGS OF U.S. ATTORNEYS

ON NPR NEWS’ MORNING EDITION
TODAY, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2007

TRANSCRIPT BELOW;
AUDIO AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG


March 21, 2007; Washington, DC – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), in an interview airing this morning on NPR News’ Morning Edition, says current and former White House aides must testify under oath about their role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Asked why he is refusing the President’s offer to allow House and Senate committees to privately question White House Political advisor Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Sen. Leahy says, “I want them under oath. I want them before the whole committee. Both Republicans and Democrats can ask them questions, but I want the public to know what they’re saying and I want their testimony under oath.”

Sen. Leahy continues his comments on rejecting the President’s offer by saying, “I don’t want some private meeting where they will tell you a little bit of what’s going on and then claim that, ‘We’ve been truthful and open.’ That just doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked in the past. We haven’t got all the information when they’ve done that, and we oftentimes haven’t had truthful information.”

On what he would ask Rove and Miers:

“I want to find out how much politics played a part in these firings of these U.S. attorneys, and to what extent they may have been affecting ongoing investigations. You know, when you – when you remove the independence of a prosecutor, it affects everybody in law enforcement, all the way down to the investigator on the street. The prosecutors have to be seen as not open to political pressure. They have to be seen as doing their job without fear or favor. And what they’ve done now is send a chill over the whole federal prosecutor system, where everybody investigating a case is going to be asking, “Well, does this fit the political mold we want?”

On whether the Senate Judiciary Committee is prepared to subpoena Rove and Miers, even though the President says he’ll fight any such effort in court:

“Well, the President can fight the effort. We will vote tomorrow in our committee on whether to issue – or to give me the authority to issue subpoenas against Karl Rove, Ms. Miers and her deputy, and I can assure you the committee will vote to authorize these subpoenas.”

On whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign:

“That’s up to the president. If the president thinks that Mr. Gonzales sets the high standard that the president feels his administration should be remembered for, then he will stay on. If he feels that he’s not setting the standards his administration should be remembered for, well, then, he’ll be gone.”

A complete transcript of the live interview is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News’ Morning Edition. Any television use of excerpts must have NPR logo on-screen identifying the soundbyte. Audio of the interview is available at www.npr.org.

Morning Edition, the two-hour newsmagazine airing weekdays and hosted by Steve Inskeep in Washington, D.C. and Renée Montagne from NPR West in Culver City, Calif., is public radio’s most listened-to program with nearly 13 million weekly listeners.

-NPR-

MS. MONTAGNE: This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I’m Renee Montagne. There are more developments in the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Democrats in Congress are rejecting a White House offer that would allow top aides to the president to talk privately to House and Senate committees about their role in the attorneys’ dismissal. Democrats want that testimony under oath and on the record, and they say they will begin to authorize subpoenas. President Bush says the White House will fight any subpoenas and resist what he called, quote, “a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From tape.) It’s not too late for Democrats to drop the partisanship and work together. Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation or whether they will join us in working to do the people’s business.

MS. MONTAGNE: President Bush, speaking yesterday at the White House.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s leading an investigation into the firings of those U.S. attorneys, and joins us now.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. LEAHY: Good morning.

MS. MONTAGNE: Now, on what grounds are you rejecting the president’s offer to question White House aides Karl Rove, the president’s top political adviser, and Harriett Miers, the former White House counsel?

SEN. LEAHY: If it’s going to be full and complete testimony I would have accepted it, but they put all kinds of conditions. They want to meet in private, they’ll want to meet only with a very few members of Congress, they don’t want it under oath. That’s unacceptable. One of the reasons we’re in the problem is that we’ve all been given these – these closed briefings where we have had a few members there, where they come up and say, “Here, we’ve given you the complete story,” and then three days later we pick up the paper and find out all the things they left out of the story.

I want them under oath. I want them before the whole committee. Both Republicans and Democrats can ask them questions, but I want the public to know what they’re saying and I want their testimony under oath.

MS. MONTAGNE: And what do you want to ask them?

SEN. LEAHY: I want to find out how much politics played a part in these firings of these U.S. attorneys, and to what extent they may have been affecting ongoing investigations. You know, when you – when you remove the independence of a prosecutor, it affects everybody in law enforcement, all the way down to the investigator on the street. The prosecutors have to be seen as not open to political pressure. They have to be seen as doing their job without fear or favor. And what they’ve done now is send a chill over the whole federal prosecutor system, where everybody investigating a case is going to be asking, “Well, does this fit the political mold we want?”

In a couple of instances they were firing very well-thought-of prosecutors to replace them, in one case, with a crony of Karl Rove. In another case, somebody who had prosecuted, investigated a Republican congressman, sent him to prison, was known to be investigating other political figures, is suddenly yanked out of her job. It just sends all the wrong signals.

I’m hoping that we can establish that the prosecutors have to be independent. Of course they serve at the pleasure of the president, but they have to be independent in their prosecution. Otherwise, the next president, whoever he or she might be, might be tempted to do the same thing.

MS. MONTAGNE: Senator, is your committee prepared to subpoena Karl Rove and Harriett Miers, even though the president says he’ll fight any such effort in court?

SEN. LEAHY: Well, the president can fight the effort. We will vote tomorrow in our committee on whether to issue -- or to give me the authority to issue subpoenas against Karl Rove, Ms. Miers and her deputy, and I can assure you the committee will vote to authorize these subpoenas.

Now, I’m perfectly happy to have them come up voluntarily, but I want them under oath. I don’t want some private meeting where they will tell you a little bit of what’s going on and then claim that, “We’ve been truthful and open.” That just doesn't work. It hasn’t worked in the past. We haven’t got all the information when they’ve done that, and we oftentimes haven’t had truthful information.

MS. MONTAGNE: Senator, we have just a few seconds here, but one final question. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been at the center of this controversy, of course. Should he resign?

SEN. LEAHY: That’s up to the president. If the president thinks that Mr. Gonzales sets the high standards that the president feels his administration should be remembered for, then he will stay on. If he feels that he’s not setting the standards his administration should be remembered for, well, then, he’ll be gone.

MS. MONTAGNE: Thank you very much.

SEN. LEAHY: Good to be with you.

MS. MONTAGNE: Patrick Leahy is a Democratic Senator from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(END)