The Sampson Subpoena
Below is the subpoena form issued for Kyle Sampson. He resigned this week as the attorney general's chief of staff, amid charges that he hid the extent of the White House's involvement in the dismissals from Congress. Leahy says he'd prefer to keep the form blank: He'd rather that witnesses testify voluntarily.
Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon has become the second Republican senator to call on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign over the scandal surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Many members of Congress have complained that the Department of Justice misled Congress in explaining how and why the federal prosecutors came to be fired.
As more documents dribble out, they continue to damage Gonzales' standing with critics.
The latest is an e-mail exchange that came out Thursday night. The message at the top of the page is from Kyle Sampson, who resigned Monday as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff, just before the Justice Department sent a stack of e-mails to Congress that contradicted the attorney general's sworn testimony from months earlier.
In early January 2005, Sampson was at the Justice Department and Gonzales was still the top lawyer at the White House, before being named attorney general. A message he wrote at that time begins, "Judge and I discussed briefly a couple weeks ago."
"Judge" is the affectionate nickname people use with Gonzales. The subject he discussed with Sampson was firing U.S. attorneys who were not, in Sampson's words, "loyal Bushies." The e-mail talks about firing 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. attorneys.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos sent out a statement: "The Attorney General has no recollection of any plan or discussion to replace U.S. Attorneys while he was still White House Counsel." Scolinos said the e-mails refer to a period of time when Gonzales was preparing for his confirmation hearing to be attorney general.
In growing numbers, lawmakers are calling for Gonzales to resign. The latest e-mails made public give them more ammunition.
The exchange also shows White House adviser Karl Rove playing an early role in planning the dismissals.
A message to White House lawyer David Leitch from Jan. 6, 2005, reads: "Karl Rove stopped by to ask you how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys. Whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) grabbed a microphone as soon as the news broke.
"The new e-mails show conclusively that Karl Rove was in the middle of this mess from the beginning," Schumer said. "It is now imperative that he testify before Congress and give all the details of his involvement."
Earlier in the day, Rove delivered a speech at Troy University in Alabama where he defended the White House's decision to dismiss eight U.S. attorneys.
"This to my mind is a lot of politics. And I understand that's what Congress has a right to play around with, and they're going to do it," Rove said. "I just ask the American people and ask Congress to look fairly and carefully at what's being said and done now."
Just before Rove delivered that speech, the Senate Judiciary Committee granted Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who serves as its chairman, the authority to subpoena five Justice officials — including Kyle Sampson — and six of the fired U.S. attorneys.
Leahy said he would take the same steps whether this was a Republican or Democratic administration.
"My concern as chairman has been that the statements from the administration to me, both in private and in public, have been — probably the most charitable way is to say they have been in flux," Leahy said.
And as if the day was not bad enough for Gonzales, a bombshell on a different front unexpectedly landed with the publication of the online edition of The National Journal.
In a story citing "government records and interviews," the Journal accused Gonzales of advising President Bush to deny Justice Department investigators the clearances they need to look into the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. According to the report, Gonzales wanted the inquiry stopped before investigators targeted him.
Once the story came out, four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary sent Gonzales a letter asking for all the relevant documents, saying: "This report raises still more concerns about the independence and integrity of the Justice Department under your leadership."