It should never have had to come to this.
Yesterday, on a bipartisan vote of 12-7, the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled that White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove are in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas issued in the U.S. Attorneys investigation. As Chairman of the Committee, I have gone to real lengths to avoid this sort of legal confrontation, but after many months the White House has yet to cooperate with these requests from our investigation -- and the American people deserve the truth.
The President denies any involvement in the political firings of Justice Department officials. Yet he and his staff continue to hide behind the veil of "executive privilege." They have essentially asserted that this privilege -- historically applied very narrowly -- covers all documents and information in their possession. It's a dramatic departure from precedent, and the Bush-Cheney administration's blanket claim of immunity from congressional subpoenas flies in the face of our system of checks and balances.
This is not about pulling a partisan "gotcha" or scoring political points. After all, Committee members of both parties supported yesterday's ruling. No, this is about defending Congress's oversight function and protecting the right of the American people to know the whole truth about the mass firings of attorneys at the Justice Department. Withholding critical evidence requested by a subpoena is a serious crime, and it's time we reminded the President and his staff that they are not above the law.
The White House's refusal to cooperate with our investigation casts further doubt on its contention that it had nothing to do with the political firings of Justice Department officials. In fact, it's now quite clear that political officials in the White House pressured federal prosecutors to bring partisan cases and sought retribution against those who refused.
Since World War II, presidential advisers have testified before Congress 74 times, either voluntarily or compelled by subpoenas -- never once refusing to comply. Executive privilege should not be invoked to prevent investigations into wrongdoing, and certainly should not prevail.
Thank you for your support for holding the Bush-Cheney Administration accountable as we get
to the bottom of the mass firings of U.S. attorneys.