Ex-Bush Aides Subpoenaed in Fired-Attorney Inquiry

Two congressional committees have issued subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor regarding their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

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Today, Congress issued subpoenas for testimony from two former White House aides about the firing of U.S. attorneys. Lawmakers also demanded White House documents related to the firings.

NPR's Ari Shapiro has that story.

ARI SHAPIRO: It's been six months since Congress first started investigating the U.S. attorney dismissals, and lawmakers still have major unanswered questions about who suggested that each prosecutor be fired and why. Newly released Justice Department documents show more White House involvement in the process than anyone had previously acknowledged.

Two names in particular keep popping up in those e-mails: Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers. Taylor was White House political director under Karl Rove and Miers was the White House counsel.

Today, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees issued subpoenas for the women to testify a month from now. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the White House cannot have it both ways. It cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses while claiming nothing improper occurred.

The White House has offered private, unsworn interviews without a transcript, but Democrats and some Republicans say that's no good because without a transcript, people can disagree about what was said behind closed doors.

Today, White House Spokesman Tony Snow said the White House will review the subpoenas and respond appropriately. When asked whether the president will fight the subpoenas in court, Snow said that is way premature.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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Former White House Aides Subpoenaed

White House counsel Harriet Miers waves as she walks in White House in this file photo.

White House counsel Harriet Miers waves as she walks into the White House after withdrawing her nomination as Supreme Court justice in this Oct. 27, 2005 file photo. The House Judiciary Committee's subpoena for Miers compels her testimony on July 12. Charles Dharapak/AP Photo/File hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Dharapak/AP Photo/File

Two congressional committees are issuing subpoenas for testimony from Harriet Miers, former White House counsel, and Sara Taylor, former political director, on their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

Democrats probing whether the White House improperly dictated which prosecutors the Justice Department should fire also are subpoenaing the White House for all relevant documents.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont issued Taylor's subpoena for her testimony July 11. His counterpart in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan, issued a subpoena for Miers' testimony the next day.

The White House has repeatedly refused to make current and former officials involved in the firings available except in private interviews, without transcripts.

"What we have said is that we will make available to the committees individuals who are perfectly willing to answer any and all questions. That ought to be sufficient for the purposes of the committees," said Tony Snow, the White House press secretary.

Congressional investigators, however, have refused that offer.

"The committees can easily obtain the facts they want without a confrontation by simply accepting our offer for documents and interviews," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday. "But it's clear that Sen. Leahy and Rep. Conyers are more interested in drama than facts."

Miers left the White House Jan. 4, while Taylor's last day was May 30.

The subpoenas came after newly released Justice Department documents revealed that Taylor was closely involved in the firings. In an e-mail on Feb. 16, Taylor described a U.S. attorney in Arkansas who was fired last year as "lazy — which is why we got rid of him in the first place," according to the documents.

Snow wasn't able to say whether the president would go to court to fight the subpoenas.

"At this point, they are going to be reviewing the subpoenas and responding appropriately. It's very early. I can't characterize something that hasn't been fully vetted," he said.

Former prosecutor Bud Cummins, reached Tuesday night for comment, responded: "I'm sure I have some faults, but my work ethic hasn't been one of them." Taylor also complained that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told senators that Cummins was replaced at the urging of Miers, then White House counsel.

It's the first time during the five-month investigation that Congress is compelling testimony from White House insiders over the firings. Not yet on the subpoena list is President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, but only because Democrats have not yet finished interviewing those below him, the officials said.

Democrats say the firings are evidence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales allowed his traditionally independent federal law enforcement agency to be run, in effect, by the White House.

Republicans point out that U.S. attorneys serve at the president's pleasure and can be fired for any reason, or none at all. Former and current top Justice Department officials have said the list of the eight fired attorneys was drawn up on the advice of several senior officials.

E-mails made public have shown that Miers, Taylor and Rove were looped into the decision-making process and attended meetings on the firings.

From The Associated Press

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