Battles Continue Between White House, Congress

Another week brings another set of battles between the Democratic Congress and the Republican White House. The latest debates surround a subpoena for Bush aide Karl Rove — and a possible independent counsel looking into the testimony of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, allegations of drunken astronauts and sabotage in the space program.

COHEN: But first, the drama in D.C. between the Bush administration and Congress over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This week saw a lot of action. The House Judiciary Committee slapped contempt of Congress citations on White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and on former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

The Senate Judiciary chairman issued subpoenas to presidential adviser Karl Rove and his deputy. And finally this week, four Democratic senators called for a special council to look into allegations that the attorney general lied under oath to a Senate panel.

NPR's David Welna has more.

DAVID WELNA: By far the most serious charge Attorney General Gonzales faces is possible perjury, a federal crime. New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer leveled that charge yesterday when he called for a special council to investigate Gonzales.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): He tells the half-truth, the partial truth, and everything but the truth.

WELNA: Schumer was referring to Gonzales' claim to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that as White House counsel he visited then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital where Ashcroft was sedated and recovering from surgery. Gonzales said he went there to discuss the need to re-authorize a secret government program, but he denied it was the so-called terrorist surveillance program, or TSP, run by the National Security Agency.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was also there that night and Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee pressed Mueller at a House Judiciary hearing yesterday for his recollection of what was being discussed.

Representative SHEILA JACKSON LEE (Democrat, Texas): Did you have an understanding that the discussion was on TSP?

Mr. ROBERT MUELLER (Director, Federal Bureau Investigation): I had understanding that the discussion was on an NSA program. Yes.

Rep. LEE: I guess we use TSP, we use warrantless wiretapping, so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?

Mr. MUELLER: It was - the discussion was on a national - an NSA program that has been much discussed. Yes.

WELNA: That would appear to contradict Gonzales' testimony that the TSP program was not discussed. Still, a spokesman for Gonzales later insisted his boss was referring to a separate program, saying that when highly secret programs are discussed, quote, "confusion is inevitable."

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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