Democrats delay major moves in two House investigations of Bush officials
Update: Chairman Conyers has officially confirmed the delay of the immunity meeting, which has been incorporated below.
Democratic leaders of two House committees decided late on Tuesday to postpone major moves in their investigations of top Bush administration officials, which had been expected early this Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee decided to delay a decision this morning on immunizing Monica Goodling, a former top Justice Department official implicated in the firing of 8 US Attorneys, from prosecution. And the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chose to push back a meeting on issuing a subpoena to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
RAW STORY learned of the delay in the immunity meeting late yesterday from a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee's staff.
"Chairman Conyers and Ranking Member Smith agreed to delay this week's vote on immunity in order to take a better look at the facts," said Beth McGinn, a spokesperson for Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the Committee. "We want to make sure this is the best way to get the facts to the public."
In a statement released this morning, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Committee's Chairman, confirmed that the immunity hearing had been postponed.
"At the request of our Ranking Minority Member, Lamar Smith, I have announced a one-week delay in the Committee vote to apply for immunity for Monica Goodling," Conyers said. "It is my hope that a short delay, agreed to in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, will enable the Minority to join us in taking this critical step in our efforts to uncover the truth about why the U.S. Attorneys were terminated and what it means for the integrity of federal law enforcement."
Yesterday, Conyers had released a statement announcing that the committee would meet at 10:15 this morning to discuss immunizing Goodling, former White House liaison at the Justice Department, from prosecution. Goodling had invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and said she would not testify on her role in the firing of 8 US Attorneys by the Justice Department of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
McGinn did not clarify to RAW STORY whether or not Republican committee members would support the motion to immunize Goodling. A 2/3 vote of the committee is required for such an action.
While the Judiciary Committee delayed the decision on Goodling, it also moved ahead on another front, criticizing the Bush administration for its latest move on the release of e-mails from accounts used by White House staff on Republican National Committee servers.
The White House Counsel's office had written to the RNC saying that all documents to be released by the party organization had to be reviewed by White House lawyers. Rep. Conyers slammed the order in a statement e-mailed to RAW STORY.
"The White House's position to clear all RNC emails before they can respond to our request is extreme and unnecessary," the Michigan Democrat said. "This is a clear attempt, on the Administration's part, to delay this process and keep the wheels of Justice turning slowly."
In a Monday afternoon conference call, the top lawyer with government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) questioned whether the White House had any privilege over the e-mails on RNC servers.
"By using an outside network, which presumably archives the message for some period of time, and allowing some entities or individuals outside the White House to access them, I don't know how they could make that claim, it seems they've waived any claim of executive privilege," said CREW's Chief Counsel Anne Weismann. "And they certainly don't have any expectation of privacy."
Also on Tuesday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) decided that his Committee on Oversight and Government Reform would postpone a meeting to contemplate issuing a subpoena to compel testimony from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her role in building the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
RAW STORY first reported on the subpoena threat Monday night.
Rice's staff had forwarded a new response to the Committee's requests for information. Waxman said he appreciated the effort in the April 17 letter and sought Rice's voluntary testimony to his committee before Memorial Day.
"I have postponed the scheduled vote for a subpoena for your appearance before the Committee from tomorrow to April 25," he wrote. "I hope we can use this time to schedule your voluntary appearance before the Committee prior to the Memorial Day recess."
Although postponing this morning's meeting, Waxman made it clear that his patience was running out.
"At this point, further exchanges of letters may not be helpful," he noted. "I hope we can work together over the next week to schedule a voluntary appearance by you before the Committee. This would eliminate the need for the use of any compulsory process by the Committee and, I believe, best serve the public interest."
The Oversight Committee chairman explained in the letter that he was not entirely satisfied with Rice's response.
"[The] letter is mainly a collection of snippets of public statements that you and other White House officials have made over the years about the fabricated Niger claim. The full record of your public statements on this issue, however, is confusing and contradictory," Waxman argued.