Wednesday, January 7, 2009

House renews probe of U.S. attorney firings

House renews probe of U.S. attorney firings
Vote to continue lawsuit means inside story of Bogden’s dismissal may come to light
By Lisa Mascaro
Wed, Jan 7, 2009 (2 a.m.)

Washington — The untold story of the firing of Nevada’s former U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden may yet be unraveled. The House on Tuesday voted to continue a lawsuit seeking testimony from the Bush administration about the politicizing of the Justice Department.

As part of a routine package of rules governing the opening of the new Congress, the House agreed to continue the lawsuit it brought last year after President George W. Bush’s former officials ignored subpoenas to produce documents and appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

The move by the Democratic-controlled House is an assertion of congressional authority after several years of what scholars see as executive branch overreach by the Bush administration.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley said Congress should do no less.

“A very fine U.S. attorney from the state of a Nevada was unceremoniously removed for no reason – I would like to know why, I would like it top be made public and I would like those responsible punished,” Berkley said. “By passing this rule we have assured this will be done.”

The House voted along party lines for the package of rules, which included other unrelated provisions Republicans opposed. Berkley and Democratic Rep. Dina Titus voted in favor. Republican Rep. Dean Heller was opposed.

No clear explanation was ever given for Bogden’s firing, which was part of an unusual dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

The firings led to congressional inquiries that revealed politics within the Justice Department and ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2007.

Bogden has since become a lawyer in private practice in Nevada.

As part of the investigations, the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who had been among those possibly involved in the decisions. It also sought documents from Joshua Bolten, the former White House chief of staff.

When the White House cited executive privilege in refusing to comply with the subpoenas, the House sued for contempt. Separately, the committee also sought information from Bush’s former top adviser Karl Rove.

Because the subpoenas expired Tuesday, with the start of the new Congress, the House passed rules to ensure they could be swiftly reissued. Without the subpoenas the underlying lawsuit could be challenged.

The committee expects to reissue the subpoenas in coming days.

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