June 13, 2007
Mr. Fred F. Fielding, Esq.
Office of Counsel to the President
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. Fielding:
Enclosed is a subpoena, issued pursuant to authority granted by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on March 21, 2007, for documents and electronic information to be produced by June 28 in connection with the Committee’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the termination of at least nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and related matters, including possible violations of federal law. This includes the documents concerning communications between the White House and others, which you have already indicated you would be willing to make available, though only as part of an unacceptable “all or nothing” offer.
We issue this subpoena with extreme reluctance, and only after making repeated attempts, as reflected in letters of March 9, March 22, March 28, and May 21, to secure voluntary cooperation from the White House in this matter. In response to a series of attempts to secure such cooperation, however, and a clear warning that we would have no choice but to utilize compulsory process if voluntary cooperation was not forthcoming, you have simply repeated the same unacceptable “take it or leave it” offer you made several months ago. Our Committee has made abundantly clear that we appreciate and respect the institutional prerogatives of the White House and that we remain ready and willing to resolve the issues on a cooperative basis. Unfortunately, we have not seen any indication of such willingness from the White House.
As recited in detail in previous letters, and as demonstrated again by documents produced just yesterday by the Justice Department, there can be no doubt that White House officials played a central role in originating, supervising, approving, and dealing with the aftermath of the plan to replace at least nine U.S. Attorneys since President Bush’s re-election, a role that remains largely unexplored and inadequately understood. Many of these facts are recounted in previous letters from Senator Leahy and from me, on May 16 and 21, respectively.
To cite just a few examples, e-mails provided by the Department of Justice show that Karl Rove and Harriet Miers were involved from the very beginning in plans to remove U.S. Attorneys after President Bush’s re-election, and that the Department official who compiled the lists of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, Kyle Sampson, was in frequent contact with White House officials on the subject. Yet after extensive review of Department documents and on-the-record interviews with a variety of senior current and former Department officials, no one at the Department seems to know who suggested putting most of the U.S. Attorneys on the list to be fired. One such U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, appears to have been put on the firing list only after Karl Rove relayed complaints about Mr. Iglesias to the White House Counsel’s office and the Department, and only after Mr. Rove was specifically enlisted by several prominent New Mexico Republicans in their effort to have Mr. Iglesias fired. E-mails demonstrate that shortly before the implementation of the firing plan, final circulation to “Karl’s shop” was considered a “pre-execution necessity.”
The precise role of White House officials, however, has been kept a mystery. After an initial round of false statements to Congress on that subject – including written misstatements that the Department was forced to correct, and false testimony that remains uncorrected to this day – Justice Department witnesses have been unable or unwilling to shed any meaningful light on the basic facts regarding who at the White House played what role in selecting these U.S. Attorneys for replacement and why. Also troubling in this regard is an incident Monica Goodling described to the House Judiciary Committee, in which the Deputy Attorney General apparently sent her away from a Senate meeting saying that her presence might prompt Senators to ask questions about the role of the White House in the U.S. Attorney firings and replacements. Taken together, these facts raise grave questions about the role of the White House and its political supporters in the U.S. Attorney firings, and about the Administration’s extensive efforts to minimize or conceal that role. Only fair access to White House information will allow these crucial questions to be answered.
In view of the compelling need for relevant information, your “all or nothing” proposal remains completely unacceptable, as we have previously stated. Conducting interviews without a transcript in a matter of this complexity and scope is likely to lead to unnecessary confusion and factual disputes down the road. It is even more problematic to try to limit the scope of document production and interviews to communications between the White House and outside parties. Communications among the White House staff involved in the U.S. Attorney replacement plan are obviously of paramount importance to any understanding of how and why these U.S. Attorneys were selected to be fired. If there were an email from Karl Rove to Harriet Miers, for example, discussing a particular U.S. Attorney and suggesting that she call Kyle Sampson and add that U.S. Attorney to the replacement list, that would be a critical piece of evidence in this investigation. Moreover, as testimony by former White House officials and others at a hearing before our Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on March 29 made clear, there is ample precedent for sworn testimony by current and former White House officials and more complete production of documents in response to congressional inquiries like this one.
Our request for information arises in the midst of growing national concern about the politicization of the U.S. Attorney ranks, and the Department of Justice more broadly. The Attorney General’s Chief of Staff, and his Senior Counsel and White House Liaison, have both resigned as a result of their roles in this matter. The Department’s number-two official has also recently announced his resignation. Across the country, U.S. Attorneys find their investigative and prosecutorial judgments subject to unprecedented scrutiny and second-guessing, and the Department’s ability to manage its U.S. Attorney corps has been severely undermined. The need to truly get to the bottom of this controversy, in which Administration officials have previously said they share our interest, is critical to our nation’s justice system.
We hope that the White House will cooperate fully with our efforts to achieve this crucial objective, and we look forward to your production of the documents requested by the return date. Also enclosed for your information is a courtesy copy of a subpoena to former White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers. Please address any questions to the Judiciary Committee office at 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (tel: 202- 225-3951; fax: 202- 225-7680).