If President Bush thought his last 18 months in the White House might be a little quiet, or that he would head into retirement with what remains of his administration's credibility intact, a flurry of judicial action on Capitol Hill shows that the last days of President Bush are going to be rocked by controversy, writs, hearings and Congressional probes, and even possible charges of contempt against some of his key officials.
And a full scale impeachment of President Bush is now gathering steam, with more Republicans joining with Democrat senators in pushing the issue, though it still seems unlikely, particularly during an election year.
From the Associated Press :
Senate Democrats called for a perjury investigation against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Thursday and subpoenaed top presidential aide Karl Rove in a deepening political and legal clash with the Bush administration.We took a detailed look at the dramatic story of that bedside visit by Gonzales here.
"It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements," four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement.
They dispatched the letter shortly before Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced the subpoena of Rove, the president's top political strategist, in remarks on the Senate floor. The White House has claimed executive privilege to block Congress from receiving documents or testimony by current and former presidential aides.
"We have now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States attorneys last year," said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gonzales is at the center of the U.S. attorney controversy, but the call for a perjury probe involved alleged conflicts between testimony he gave the Judiciary Committee in two appearances, one last year and the other this week. The issue revolves around whether there was internal administration dissent over the president's warrantless wiretapping program.
As for the firing of the prosecutors, e-mails released by the Justice Department show Gonzales' aides conferred with Rove on the matter.
Leahy also said he was issuing a subpoena for J. Scott Jennings, a White House political aide. The deadline for him and Rove to comply was set as Aug. 2.
"For over four months, I have exhausted every avenue seeking the voluntary cooperation of Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings, but to no avail," the Vermont lawmaker said. "They and the White House have stonewalled every request. Indeed, the White House is choosing to withhold documents and is instructing witnesses who are former officials to refuse to answer questions and provide relevant information and documents."
The call for a perjury investigation marked yet another complication for Gonzales, whose fitness to serve has been bluntly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters aboard Air Force One during the day that he "might" raise the issue with the president, who has steadfastly stood by his longtime friend.
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters, "I'm convinced that he's not telling the truth," based on conversations with Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
At issue is what was discussed at a March 10, 2004, congressional briefing. A letter from then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the briefing concerned the administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration.
But Gonzales, at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving prior court approval.
Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe. He said the meeting prompted him to go to the bedside of ailing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to recertify the surveillance program, but he denied pressuring Ashcroft to do so. Ashcroft, recovering from gall bladder surgery, refused.