White House Misses Testimony Notification Deadline The White House missed a deadline Friday night to notify Congress if it would allow three key officials to testify voluntarily about their roles in the dismissal of eight United States attorneys. The administration said it hoped to have an answer for Congress by Tuesday.
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White House Misses Testimony Notification Deadline

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White House Misses Testimony Notification Deadline

White House Misses Testimony Notification Deadline

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This is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Scott Simon.

The White House missed the deadline last night and Democrats went on the attack. It was the latest back and forth in the growing scandal over eight fired U.S. attorneys.

NPR's Ari Shapiro has been covering this story all week and joins us now in our studios. Ari, thanks for being with us.

ARI SHAPIRO: It's my pleasure.

SIMON: And this deadline was what?

SHAPIRO: It was when the White House was going to let Congress know whether three key officials were going to testify voluntarily. Karl Rove was one of them. He's the White House political guru. Harriet Miers used to be the White House counsel and her deputy, William Kelley. Those were the three people.

The White House said, given the importance of the issues under consideration and the presidential principles involved, we need more time to resolve them. They told Congress they hope to have an answer to them by Tuesday.

SIMON: And let me guess, Congress said, oh, that makes a lot of sense. Sure, by all means.

SHAPIRO: As you can imagine, they were not so happy about it. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, John Conyers, said he was very disappointed and he threw out the S word - subpoenas. He said next week he's going to start talking about subpoenaing these folks. On the Senate side, subpoenas are already on the schedule for next week, and so Leahy, Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said, I hope the president makes the right decision and works with us voluntarily to root out this corruption.

SIMON: Now all of this is happening at a time when more people, including at least one Republican, are calling for Attorney General Gonzales to resign.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, the chorus has been growing all week and - at a White House briefing yesterday, spokesman Tony Snow was asked about it. Here's the exchange with the reporter.

(Soundbite of White House briefing)

CHERYL(ph) (Reporter): Is it the president's intention then to keep Attorney General Gonzales in his current position through the remainder of the Bush administration?

Secretary TONY SNOW (White House Press Secretary): You're asking me what's going to happen for the next two years, Cheryl, I'm not going to answer.

CHERYL: For the next two weeks?

Mr. SNOW: He intends to keep him in the position.

SHAPIRO: I've been talking to a lot of people this week who come down from different places on this issue and among those who think Gonzales ought to resign - there're sort of two competing theories. One is keep the punching bag in the gym. If you're going to get rid of him, get rid of him after he takes all the heat for this. The other theory is if Gonzales does resign, it might help make the issue go away and ease up some of the pressure on the administration.

SIMON: Now you discovered a story yesterday that the only person to resign so far, Kyle Sampson, did not entirely go away.

SHAPIRO: Not initially, no. He was the chief of staff to the attorney general and on Monday, he resigned as chief of staff as the Justice Department sent a stack of his e-mails to Capitol Hill. Those e-mails contradicted sworn testimony that the attorney general had delivered and created a lot of the problems we saw this week.

Well it turns out that on Monday, when Sampson resigned, the Justice Department started to set up an office for him to work as an attorney in a legislative section of the environment division at the Justice Department. So there was this idea that he could stick around and keep working at the Justice Department as an attorney.


SHAPIRO: It was only Tuesday, when the scandal really exploded, that he resigned from the Justice Department as a whole.

SIMON: And how did the Justice Department finish this?

SHAPIRO: Well officials speaking on background said to me, there were discussions about whether or not he would be detailed elsewhere as he was transitioning out, and ultimately it was decided not to go that direction.

SIMON: E-mails were released almost hourly this week it seemed. More on the way?

SHAPIRO: Yes. The Justice Department is pulling more documents as we speak, assembling the documents, redacting the parts that need to be blanked out, and they're going to send those to Capitol Hill. And it will be more of what we've seen - e-mails back and forth that will describe the discussions about firing some of these U.S. attorneys. It may inform the conversation about whether the attorney general and his subordinates knew they were giving false testimony when they testified on Capitol Hill, and it will help show whether the White House had these firings in mind when they suggested changing the USA Patriot Act to give the attorney general more authority to replace interim U.S. attorneys.

SIMON: What's the status of those proposed changes?

SHAPIRO: Well Congress is talking about undoing the changes and it's moving very quickly. The debate begins on Monday. The Senate's scheduled to vote on Tuesday, and it seems as though, in the midst of this big scandal, there doesn't seem to be a lot of opposition to rolling back the changes that took place that gave the attorney general this power.

SIMON: NPR's Ari Shapiro, thank you.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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