It appears the Bush administration intends to continue stymieing congressional efforts to shed light on politicization at the Justice Department. Despite efforts by the House Judiciary Committee to question former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, the president and Attorney General Michael Mukasey have remained defiant and continue to invoke a broad notion of executive privilege – forcing the committee to issue subpoenas and, when those subpoenas were ignored, vote to hold the officials in “contempt of congress.”
Although the contempt vote passed the House on Feb. 19, Attorney General Mukasey still refuses to enforce the subpoenas, leading the House Judiciary Committee to file suit in federal court. On Thursday, the committee filed a brief in response to one filed by the attorney general on May 9 which claimed that the it had no standing, or right to sue to force Miers or Bolten to give testimony concerning the firing of nine US attorneys in 2006. Congressional Quarterly also reports that a group of bipartisan lawmakers is backing the committee, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in which the lawmakers argued that the committee had “made an ample showing of the need to obtain the subpoenaed documents and testimony.”
Yet another former White House advisor, Karl Rove, is also refusing to testify before the committee, this time regarding allegations of selective prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Despite attempts by the Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) to force Rove to respond to its inquiries, Rove has also continued to cite executive privilege. A New York Times editorial today called his invocation of the privilege “weak” and “shamefully cynical,” stating that “drumming up political prosecutions in the Justice Department, and talking about it with operatives in Alabama” is certainly “not privileged.”
Alliance for Justice has consistently criticized politicization at the Justice Department and called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to separate himself from the policies of Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft. Unfortunately, what we, and the American people, have gotten is more of the same – secrets covered up by avoiding congressional oversight and making blanket claims of executive privilege. Both chambers of Congress should continue to investigate allegations of partisan abuse and Attorney General Mukasey should support their efforts to force those who are unwilling to testify.