At least four recently fired U.S. attorneys who've been issued subpoenas are to testify before the House and Senate judiciary committees Tuesday. The panels are probing allegations that eight federal prosecutors were dismissed by the Justice Department in December for political reasons.
Now a senior Republican senator says he regrets a phone call he made to one of the fired attorneys.
On his last day as U.S. attorney in New Mexico last week, fired federal prosecutor David Iglesias told local reporters that he had been contacted by two congressional Republicans shortly before the November elections.
Iglesias said the two lawmakers, whose names he did not reveal, wanted him to speed up a probe into alleged corruption by a prominent local Democrat.
When the Associated Press asked New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, last week about Iglesias' allegations, Domenici was quoted as saying he had no idea what Iglesias was talking about.
But over the weekend, Domenici did an about-face. He issued a statement acknowledging having called the fired U.S. attorney late last year. Domenici said he asked Iglesias about the ongoing investigation and wanted a timeframe on it. He also said that in retrospect, he regretted making the call, and he apologized.
The Justice Department has disclosed that Domenici called U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales four times over the past year and a half to raise questions about Iglesias. A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for further comment.
Domenici's call concerning a case Iglesias was involved has raised ethical concerns. The Senate ethics manual says senators should not communicate with agencies involved in ongoing investigative matters.
The Justice Department announced the official who told the eight U.S. attorneys that they were being fired is leaving his job next week. White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked whether Michael Battle's departure was related to the firings.
"No," Snow said. "He's made it known for many months that he's wanted to move on. So it's certainly not news. He's wanted to go to the private sector."
Snow would make no further comment on a matter the White House has had little to say about since the firings first became public.