By HOPE YEN
The Associated Press
Sunday, March 18, 2007; 11:24 PM
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday he intends to subpoena White House officials involved in ousting federal prosecutors and is dismissing anything short of their testimony in public.
The Bush White House was expected to announce early this week whether it will let political strategist Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and other officials testify or will seek to assert executive privilege in preventing their appearance.
The chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., last week delayed a vote on the subpoenas until Thursday as the president's counsel, Fred Fielding, sought to negotiate terms. But on Sunday, Leahy said he had not met Fielding nor was he particularly open to any compromises, such as a private briefing by the administration officials.
"I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this," Leahy said. "I do not believe in this, we'll have a private briefing for you where we'll tell you everything, and they don't."
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the committee, said he had a long talk with Fielding on Friday and was reserving judgment. Specter said he would like to see Rove and Miers' open testimony because there were numerous precedents for it.
"I want to see exactly what the White House response is," Specter said. "Maybe the White House will come back and say, 'We'll permit them to be interviewed and we'll give them all the records.'"
At issue is the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, dismissals that Democrats say were politically motivated. Such prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales initially had asserted the firings were performance-related and denied the White House played a role.
But e-mails released last week between the Justice Department and the White House contradicted that assertion and led to a public apology from Gonzales over the handling of the matter.
The e-mails showed that Rove, as early as Jan. 6, 2005, questioned whether the U.S. attorneys should all be replaced at the start of Bush's second term, and to some degree worked with Miers and former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson to get some prosecutors dismissed.
Additional e-mails are expected to be released this week to the Senate and House Judiciary committees. Each committee planned votes on subpoenas for Rove and Miers.
Several Democrats and a few Republicans, including Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire, have called for Gonzales to resign, saying he had lost the support and confidence of Congress and the nation.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate Judiciary Committee had a deal with Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, for him to testify voluntarily.
Sampson, who resigned last week, released a statement making clear that senior Justice officials were aware that the department and the White House "had been discussing the subject since the election" of 2004. Gonzales has said he was kept in the dark about the communications.
"The stories keep changing from so many people," Schumer said. "A good lawyer will tell you when the witnesses keep changing their stories, they're usually not telling the truth and they have something to hide."
Bud Cummins of Arkansas, one of the fired U.S. attorneys, said Gonzales should step down if it is proved that he was involved in the firings.
"They need to go around the room and say, 'Who knew about the bases for these decisions as they went along? Who knew that the White House had this much input, was able to inject this much improper political consideration into these decisions?'
"Because each of those people really don't need to be at the Department of Justice anymore. If he's one of them, then maybe he does need to resign," Cummins said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, cautioned against a "political witch hunt" and said Democrats "think Karl Rove is lurking behind every bush in Washington." But he said Gonzales needs to get his story straight _ quickly.
Leahy and Cornyn appeared on ABC's "This Week," Cummins and Specter spoke on "Fox News Sunday" and Schumer was on "Meet the Press" on NBC.