Attorney General Threatened with Contempt of Congress over CIA Leak Documents

Attorney General could face contempt of Congress for holding CIA leak documents.


July 8, 2008— -- Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has threatened to hold Attorney General Michael Mukasey in contempt of Congress if he does not provide documents that have been subpoenaed by his committee relating to the CIA leak investigation.

Waxman is attempting to obtain documents detailing what President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney told investigators.

The investigation, run by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, surrounded the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and resulted in the conviction of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Cheney.

During the February trial Fitzgerald implicated Cheney in the leak, telling the jury in his closing argument, "There is a cloud over what the vice president did that week… We didn't put that cloud there. That cloud remains."

Waxman's House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena on June 12, 2008, to the Justice Department to produce documents relating to the case, specifically details on what Cheney and President Bush told investigators.

The Justice Department responded in a June 24 letter, citing a separation of powers argument in refusing to provide the information.

"We are not prepared to make the same accommodation for reports of interviews with the president and vice president because the confidentiality interests relating to those documents are of a greater constitutional magnitude," the Justice Department stated in the letter.

Waxman responded to Mukasey in a letter sent Tuesday.

"You have neither complied with this subpoena by its returnable date nor asserted any privilege to justify withholding," Waxman wrote.

In response to Waxman's letter Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said, "We are reviewing the letter from Chairman Waxman, in light of our most recent response on June 24."

Fitzgerald has turned over reports and interviews from the multi-year investigation to the House Oversight committee, including interviews from some witnesses and other officials that spanned from 2003 until Libby's March 2007 conviction.

Both Bush and Cheney were interviewed by Fitzgerald's office during the investigation. The interviews were not before the grand jury and neither Bush nor Cheney were under oath for the interviews, which occurred in June 2004 when the grand jury was at a critical juncture after hearing evidence from several top White House aides and staffers about the revelation of Plame's identity.

In a July 3 letter to the committee, Fitzgerald wrote to Waxman that "there were no agreements, conditions, and understandings between the Office of Special Counsel or the Federal Bureau of Investigation and either the President or Vice President regarding the conduct and use of the interview or interviews."

Waxman sought the records to review how the White House handles classified information and how it responds to leaks.

"The Committee also seeks to answer important questions about how the White House safeguards national security secrets and responds to breaches, and to make legislative recommendations to ensure appropriate handling of classified information by White House officials," Waxman wrote in the letter to Mukasey.

"I regret that your failure to produce responsive documents has created this impasse, but Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch. Therefore, unless all responsive documents, with the exception of the FBI interview report of President Bush, are provided to the Committee or a valid assertion of executive privilege is made, the Committee will meet on July 16 to consider a resolution citing you in contempt. I strongly urge you to reconsider your position and comply with the duly issued subpoena."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has also issued a subpoena to the Justice Department seeking a broad set of documents including records from the CIA leak investigation.

The House Judiciary subpoena seeks records and investigative materials from Fitzgerald's inquiry into the leak of Plame's CIA affiliation, records from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel on interrogations and intelligence gathering, as well as a variety of memos and documents relating to alleged selective prosecutions by the department.

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