Showdown at the DC Corral via The Hill
House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys last year.
The deadline for a response is Thursday, June 28. If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches. In an ironic twist, the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be called on to enforce the contempt motion.
Folks, this ratchets things up to an entire new level because contempt of Congress is a criminal violation which can, and in some cases has, led to both fines of as high as $10,000 and prison terms as long as 6 months, plus 5 years probation (in the case of former EPA Offical Rita Lavelle who was convicted of Perjury in 2004)
More from Conyers.
"The House and Senate judiciary committees have issued subpoenas to the White House for documents and testimony," said Conyers. "We’re still hopeful they may cooperate. But it’s still possible that enforcement action may be taken."
"We want to know where the lines go from the DoJ to the White House," he said. "That’s where these bread crumbs keep leading us and then they get lost in the snow or something."
Right now the specific targets of the Contempt Charges would include White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, whom the subpoenas have been directed to, as well as former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director - and Karl Rove Deputy - Sara "Cummins was Lazy" Taylor.
Although Taylor has accepted her subpoena and agreed to testify just why would Conyers want additional White House documents? Well, maybe because of what Kyle Sampson told them behind closed doors according to Karen Tumulty at Time.
In private testimony that is being released this afternoon by the commitee, Alberto Gonzales’s former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson told investigators that Gonzales himself initially resisted the idea of bypassing the Senators from Arkansas to install Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Pressure to do it, he suggested, was coming from officials at the White House–specifically, White House political director Sara Taylor, her deputy Scott Jennings and Chris Oprison, the associate White House counsel. Sampson described himself and Goodling as "open to the idea," which is not the same as instigating it.
If Conyers' Judiciary Committee passes the contempt vote, the procedures is then for the measure to be referred to the full House - if it passes there as well it becomes a criminal matter, only this is also where things also get a bit sticky.
The standard procedure from this point is for the Contempt charges to be taken up by the sitting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who would then convene a Grand Jury prior to issueing indictments. That U.S. Attorney currently happens to be Jeffrey A. Taylor who was appointed by Alberto Gonzales as an interim replacement USA by-passing Senate Confirmation under a loophole in the Patriot Act (although it should be noted - no one was fired to make room for Taylor as his appointment took place in September of 2006, several months before the "purging of the Big 8".)
Unlike most of the replacement Attorneys, Taylor actually does have some prosecutorial experience from 5 years he spent as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. He's served as Majority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee (under Senator Orrin Hatch and helped draft many provisions of the Patriot Act) and has been an Conselor at the DOJ assisting both John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales on matters of "national security, terrorism, and criminal litigation and policy".
So would Mr. Taylor deign to actually call a Grand Jury to investigate various White House personnel for contempt of congress, when - to some extent - it might essentially involve an investigation of his own appointment!?
Wikipedia isn't so sure.
Under 2 U.S.C. § 194, once either the House or the Senate issues a citation for contempt of Congress, it is referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." It is unclear (as of President Bush's March 20, 2007 declaration that he would not comply with Congressional subpoenas on this matter) whether Mr. Taylor would fulfill this duty to convene a grand jury, or resist Congress at the direction of Bush or Gonzales.