Hill Subpoenas Approved for Rice, Other Bush Officials
Thursday, April 26, 2007; 6:22 AM
Lawmakers approved new subpoenas yesterday for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration officials, part of an expanding legal battle between the Democratic-controlled Congress and the administration over issues such as the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and flawed justifications for the war in Iraq.
The subpoena issued to Rice seeks to force her testimony about the claim that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program. President Bush offered that as a key rationale for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address. The subpoena was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee along party lines, 21 to 10.
The same panel also issued two subpoenas to the Republican National Committee for testimony and documents related to political presentations at the General Services Administration and the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House aides, including presidential adviser Karl Rove.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 32 to 6 to grant limited immunity from prosecution to Monica M. Goodling, the former senior counselor and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. She has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about her role in the prosecutor firings. The panel also authorized, but did not issue, a subpoena that would compel her to testify.
And finally in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Rove deputy Sara Taylor, whose name has appeared among thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents released by the Justice Department in the U.S. attorney firings.
The five subpoenas and related matters, approved over the course of two hours yesterday morning, provided fresh evidence of the remarkable change since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Congressional committees have approved or issued more than two dozen subpoenas, most of them related to the U.S. attorney firings.
"A subpoena is not a request; it's a demand for information," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee that issued the bulk of yesterday's subpoenas. "They ought to understand it's no longer a request, it's no longer an option."
The White House signaled that it will continue to resist efforts to secure testimony from Rice, Rove and other aides. Spokesman Tony Fratto said that, in Taylor's case, the committee should reconsider an earlier offer from the White House, which would allow aides to be interviewed without a transcript and not under oath.
The demand for Rice's testimony would put a spotlight on her role as national security adviser in promoting discredited administration claims that Saddam Hussein was pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
"There was one person in the White House who had primary responsibility to get the intelligence about Iraq right -- and that was Secretary Rice, who was then President Bush's national security adviser," Waxman said. "The American public was misled about the threat posed by Iraq, and this committee is going to do its part to find out why."
Rice, in Oslo for a meeting with NATO foreign ministers, said on Thursday she was not inclined to appear before the committee, saying her advice to the president as National Security Adviser was privileged, the Associated Press reported. She said that she had answered many of the same questions in her confirmation hearings for secretary of state, and said she would respond to this round of inquiry in writing -- but not in person.
"I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing," she said. "This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered...I am more than happy to answer them again in a letter."