Congress, White House Clash on Hearing Rules President Bush says he will make Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers available to testify — but not under oath — about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others on the Judiciary Committee respond that the rules won't bring true accountability to the process.
NPR logo

Congress, White House Clash on Hearing Rules

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9015486/9015487" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Congress, White House Clash on Hearing Rules

Congress, White House Clash on Hearing Rules

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9015486/9015487" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The White House said today it would make Karl Rove and former counsel Harriett Miers available to testify about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys but not under oath.

It's not clear yet how that will play in Congress. Last night, the Justice Department released thousands of pages of documents about the firings. Officials at the department said they hope that would demonstrate to the prosecutors were not removed for improper reasons.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the firing did not have the desired effect.

ARI SHAPIRO: It cannot bode well for the Justice Department that the day after they released thousands of pages to try to dig themselves out of this mess, another Republican congressman said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resigned.

That call came from Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Tancredo said the documents were not the reason behind his complaint. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who has not called for Gonzales to resign, said he found the documents lacking.

Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): Look at this, redacted, redacted, redacted. You know, one of the things I want to look at is appropriations - how much money they're spending on Wite-Out down there. And they're certainly not spending much on print. We're not getting the full answer.

SHAPIRO: There are many redacted documents in the piles, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of worthless pages containing nothing but hearing transcripts and duplicates. But there are also intriguing e-mail exchanges and internal memos. The attorney general is like the Godot in these documents.

Everyone spends thousands of pages talking about him but he never actually makes an appearance. His deputies are all over, like Kyle Sampson, who resigned last week as the attorney general's chief of staff. In one document, Sampson sent the White House a list of people who could be the next U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C.

The top of the mostly redacted list says: specs, Hispanic, Republican, some plausible ties to Washington D.C. That's a difficult task in a city that's two-thirds black and overwhelmingly Democratic. The only name that's not redacted is at the very bottom of the list with the note, no D.C. ties.

It's David Iglesias who was dismissed as New Mexico's U.S. attorney last December. In another e-mail exchange, Justice Department official Monica Goodling e-mails a small group of U.Sattorneys to ask for recommendations of people to work in leadership positions at the Justice Department in Washington.

Bud Cummins of Arkansas enthusiastically replied, I've invited a select few of our racehorses to consider it - not knowing he'd be fired in a few days. California Senator Dianne Feinstein said today that the documents raise as many questions as they answer.

Senator DIANNE FEINSTEIN (Democrat, California): What was the real reason why these eight U.S. attorneys were fired especially in light of the fact that six of the eight were involved in prosecuting corruption?

SHAPIRO: Feinstein wrote a bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate today by a vote of 94 to two. It would take away the attorney general's power to appoint new U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. But on this otherwise difficult day for the attorney general, Gonzales got a boost from his old friend, President Bush.

The president called him this morning. It was the first time they talked in a week. According to White House spokesman Tony Snow, the president gave the attorney general a very strong vote of confidence. Snow called reports that the White House is looking for a new attorney general false and gossip.

And in a rare moment of harmony between Congress and the White House, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers announced that he'd reached a deal with White House counsel Fred Fielding about the testimony of top White House officials. The agreement says political adviser Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and others will be interviewed privately by the committee.

There will be no oath or transcript. On the Senate side, Democrat Charles Schumer of New York said with no transcript and no oath, you're not going to get very far. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote Thursday on whether to authorize subpoenas.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

SIEGEL: And you can read many of the documents that we've been reporting on at npr.org.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.