I wanted to share with all of you the reasoning behind a significant step I have taken in the investigation of the mass firings of federal prosecutors and the politicization occurring within the Department of Justice.
Today, I issued subpoenas to former White House Counsel Harriett Miers to compel her to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and to provide documents related to our investigation. My counterpart in the Senate, Chairman Leahy, issued separate subpoenas to former Rove assistant, Sara Taylor.
I consider these subpoenas to be essential because the evidence our investigation has uncovered points to the pivotal role the White House played in the U.S. Attorney firings. We have only sought to compel cooperation through subpoenas after more than three months of stonewalling by the White House.
I had hoped that the White House would be more forthcoming in assisting our investigation. Unfortunately, this subpoena provided the only legal means for the American people, through their elected representatives, to find out how their government functions.
This subpoena represents a very serious step by Congress not to be taken lightly. Defiance or failure to comply would run counter to the checks and balances that are the foundation of our constitution and democratic government.
Here is what we have learned in our investigation so far:
• Key White House political advisers Karl Rove and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales were involved from the beginning in plans to remove U.S. Attorneys. According to documents obtained from the Department of Justice and Mr. Sampson’s testimony, Mr. Sampson discussed the plan with then-White House Counsel Gonzales not long after President Bush’s re-election in late 2004. A January 9, 2005 e-mail released by the Department shows that Karl Rove initiated inquires as to "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." In his response to queries from David Leitch, a White House official, Mr. Sampson expressly deferred to the political judgment of Mr. Rove as to whether to proceed with plans for the replacement of U.S. Attorneys, writing,"[I]f Karl thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I."
• Mr. Sampson, who has testified that he "aggregated" the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, was in frequent contact with White House officials about multiple versions of proposed lists of possible U.S. Attorneys for dismissal and potential replacements over the course of nearly two years, sending draft lists for review in March 2005, January 2006, April 2006, and several drafts in September 2006 through the firings on December 7, 2006.
• According to documents and testimony, Sara Taylor, the head of the White House political operation and deputy of Karl Rove, and Scott Jennings, another aide to Mr. Rove, were involved in the discussions and planning that led to the removal of Bud Cummins and bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install Tim Griffin, another former aide to Mr. Rove, as U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas. They were part of a group that discussed using the Attorney General’s expanded authority under the Patriot Act Reauthorization to avoid the opposition of the Arkansas Senators by appointing Mr. Griffin as interim indefinitely. In one e-mail, Mr. Sampson described Mr. Griffin’s appointment as "important to Harriet, Karl, etc." After the firing, writing from her RNC email account, Ms. Taylor writes that "Bud is lazy – which is why we got rid of him in the first place."
• Mr. Sampson testified that Ms. Taylor was upset when the Attorney General finally "rejected" this use of the interim authority -- a month after telling Senator Pryor he was committed to finding a Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney.
• The evidence gathered so far also shows significant White House involvement -- including by Mr. Rove -- in the decision to dismiss David Iglesias as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. We have learned from the testimony of the Attorney General and Mr. Sampson that Mr. Rove directly complained to the Attorney General about concerns that prosecutors were not aggressively pursuing voter fraud cases in districts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. One of these districts was that of Mr. Iglesias, who was added after that complaint to the list of U.S. Attorneys to be replaced. We have also learned that Mr. Rove’s aide, Mr. Jennings, set up a meeting between White House Liaison Monica Goodling and New Mexico Republican officials in June 2006 to talk about the U.S. Attorney "situation" in New Mexico, describing it as "sensitive." Those officials also met with another aide to the Attorney General, Matthew Friedrich, told him that they were seeking Iglesias’ ouster and that they had spoken to Karl Rove about the subject, according to Friedrich’s testimony to congressional investigators.
• Media reports and the White House Press Office have confirmed that Mr. Rove relayed complaints about Mr. Iglesias to the White House Counsel’s office and to the Justice Department.
• Press accounts and congressional testimony have also revealed that after the midterm election, Mr. Rove discussed the performance of Mr. Iglesias with Senator Domenici, who himself had called Mr. Igelisias before the election to ask whether he was bringing indictments against a Democratic official in the lead up to the election. According to Allen Weh, Chairman of New Mexico's Republican Party chairman, when he asked Mr. Rove during a holiday party in 2006 "is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" -- referring to Mr. Iglesias -- Mr. Rove responded, "He’s gone."
• The concern by White House officials with purported voter fraud extends beyond New Mexico. We have learned that Mr. Rove sent Mr. Sampson a packet of information related to Wisconsin. According to his testimony, Mr. Sampson gave this packet to another Department official, Matthew Friedrich, and also asked him to look into the voter concerns in districts relayed by Mr. Rove to the Attorney General. The packet sent by Mr. Rove contains a 30-page report concerning voting in Wisconsin in 2004 and also handwritten notes suggesting a concern with prosecution in numerous districts. Some of these Wisconsin materials appear to have been viewed and printed by Mr. Rove in February 2005, just a month before the US Attorney in the Eastern District of Wisconsin was place on the termination list.
• John McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, testified that when he met with Ms. Miers and her deputy William Kelley in August 2006 to interview for a federal judgeship, he was asked to explain "criticism that I mishandled the 2004 governor's election," in which Republicans were upset with him for not intervening in that closely contested election.
• Since the firings of these U.S. Attorneys for political reasons became public, there has been an effort to minimize, and in some instances, cover up, the role of White House officials. According to documents and the testimony of Mr. Sampson, the Attorney General was upset after the February 6, 2007, testimony of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty because Mr. McNulty’s testimony put the White House involvement in the firings into the public domain. Former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling recently told the House Judiciary Committee that she was told not to attend a briefing by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty on the firings to the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, 2007, because of the concern that her presence might prompt Senators to ask questions about White House involvement.
• The Administration’s February 23, 2007, response to a letter from Senators Reid, Schumer, Durbin and Murray regarding the firings stated, "I am not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the AG’s decision to appoint Griffin." Earlier e-mails indicate that the appointment of Mr. Griffin, another former deputy to Mr. Rove, was important to Mr. Rove. The White House, Associate White House Counsel Chris Oprison, signed off on this letter. Before Griffin was installed, Mr. Oprison, who signed off on the letter, had written that the Griffin issue was "front/center on [his] radar screen" and that he had "had several conversations with [Rove aide] Scott Jennings" about "the controversy." Many parts of this letter have since been retracted by the Department.
• According to the testimony of Department officials, Mr. Rove and other White House officials attended a meeting at the White House on March 5, 2007 -- the day before Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella testified before the House Judiciary Committee -- to "go over the admin position on all aspects of the US attorney issue." Rove is reported to have spoken at this meeting and directed the Department to provide reasons to explain the firings in the next day’s testimony.
Given what we have learned, clear answers from the White House are needed to shed light on its role in this process. These steps today will hopefully bring us closer to those answers.