Leahy hints at more 'Attorneygate' whistleblowers
David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
Published: Friday March 23, 2007
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Thursday night on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee hinted that he might have more "whistleblowers" set to testify on the ongoing US Attorneys scandal, which some have dubbed "Attorneygate."

In the interview with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Olbermann referred to comments made previously on the show by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) about "really angry career employees," then asked if the Committee had any "rabbits in hats."

"He said that he hoped that the White House would let Mr. Rove and the others testify on the record," Olbermann related to Leahy. "If they did not, there really were enough really angry career employees, prosecutors in the Justice Department who would ensure that this information, the actual facts of the case would get out anyway."

Olbermann continued, "I'm wondering what we should infer from that. Are there rabbits in hats that you have that we don't know about?"

"Keith, I was a prosecutor for eight years," Leahy said. "I've always tried to have a few witnesses honing back in case we need them and I suspect we will have them."

Leahy added, "We saw in the paper this morning people saying we had a $130 billion case against big tobacco companies until the White House said no, you can't hit them with any kind of a fine like that. That's awful, they're friends of ours, cut it down to $10 billion. And, in fact, a career member of the Justice Department was given a summation that she was required to read word for word. I've never known of a lawyer giving a summation to the court where somebody else wrote it and they had to read it. It's never happened in my experience. She's very upset about this. A lot of other people are."

The committee voted yesterday to authorize subpoenas for White House adviser Karl Rove and three other officials, one day after Bush strongly defended his offer to allow unsworn testimony "behind closed doors" by the four in question.

"The White House has said they'll let some of these people come up but only behind closed doors with no transcript of what they say, not under oath, a limited agenda," Leahy told Olbermann. "That's a nonstarter."

Leahy added, "This is a -- I realize U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, but the U.S. justice system does not serve at the pleasure of either this president or any other president. And we intend to find out just what happened."

The following video clip is from MSNBC's Countdown:

RUSH TRANSCRIPT:

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MR. OLBERMANN: As promised, we're joined by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy from Vermont. With the subpoena authorization, Wenator, is it thrown down, is there a chance for a compromise still?

MR. LEAHY: My basic interest is to get the information, get the truth, find out what happened, and get it before the American public. The White House has said they'll let some of these people come up but only behind closed doors with no transcript of what they say, not under oath, a limited agenda. That's a nonstarter. This is a -- I realize U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, but the U.S. justice system does not serve at the pleasure of either this president or any other president. And we intend to find out just what happened.

MR. OLBERMANN: The Democrats on your committee sent a letter to the White House counsel asking him whether the president's offer is utterly nonnegotiable? Have you gotten a response?

MR. LEAHY: He said it the not negotiable. We're going the extra mile to make sure it's so. We will start hearings next week. We've already notified Mr. Gonzalez's former chief of staff to come in and we have a subpoena, I would hope he would come voluntarily but the position I take, every one of these people can come voluntarily, but they don't, I will subpoena them.

MR. OLBERMANN: Do you have any expectation on Mr. Sampson. There is lots of discussion on voluntary appearance or perhaps postponing his appearance. Is there any indication of whether he's going to come in voluntarily?

MR. LEAHY: I would hope he would. I have not heard back from his attorney, and they have some conflicts in their scheduling. I'm willing to move it around a little bit to accommodate them but there is an awful lot of people we need to hear from. He's a key one. A lot of people point the finger at him and he says I'm not going to be a scapegoat here. Let's have both parties ask questions in opening hearing and find out what is going on. I have a lot of other things before the Judiciary Committee. I'd like to get this wrapped up as soon as I can.

MR. OLBERMANN: With that kind of level of speed required with the other commitments for the committee, you have the authority to issue subpoenas to Mr. Rove and Harriet Miers and to her former deputy Mr. Kelley. Are you holding that bullet back in the gun in hopes that the White House is going to budge or how long can you hold it back?

MR. LEAHY: I can hold it throughout this Congress which has almost two years to go, but I will say they're not the first people I want to have testify anyway. I want to hear from some of the other people. We have Attorney General Gonzalez coming up next month. We have Mr. Sampson coming. We have others. So far nobody has asked for a subpoenas although I have them for all these people and will subpoena them if necessary. I know that the director of the FBI, others are coming. So we have a number of key witnesses coming. And frankly, if I was in the White House, I would rather have my people come in and testify first rather than be at the end when there is a long record. You know, the reason I wanted to do it under oath, you remember in the Valerie Plame thing, nobody had anything to do with this, nobody outed her name, nobody said she was a CIA operative nobody at the White House did until so many people were under oath and we find, gosh, they did. It's amazing how that focuses one's attention.

MR. OLBERMANN: Perhaps that's why there was an oath. I always wondered what the reason was, and you underscored it.

MR. LEAHY: The thing is thousands of Americans every day all over this country in courtrooms all over this country, stand up proudly to take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and they do. that's why the justice system works. And that's why people expect you to. I'm not -- I just don't want to have these backroom meetings where you get half the information and two days later you pick up the newspaper or turn on the tv and find all the things were left out. Let's just get it out. Let the american people see what is going on. Let republicans and Democrats both ask the questions. I'll be very fair. I'll make sure that every Republican on the committee is allowed to ask any questions they want as will every Democrat.

MR. OLBERMANN: You mentioned the sequence of testimony of the witnesses. Your colleague, Mr. Schumer of New York was with us and made an interesting observation. He said that he hoped that the White House would let Mr. Rove and the others testify on the record. If they did not, there really were enough really angry career employees, prosecutors in the Justice Department who would ensure that this information, the actual facts of the case would get out anyway. I'm wondering what we should infer from that. Are there rabbits in hats that you have that we don't know about?

MR. LEAHY: Keith, I was a prosecutor for eight years. I've always tried to have a few witnesses honing back in case we need them and I suspect we will. We saw in the paper this morning people saying we had a $130 billion case against big tobacco companies until the white house said no, you can't hit them with any kind of a fine like that. That's awful, they're friends of ours, cut it down to $10 billion. And, in fact, a career member of the Justice Department was given a summation that she was required to read word for word. I've never known of a lawyer giving a summation to the court where somebody else wrote it and they had to read it. It's never happened in my experience. She's very upset about this. A lot of other people are.

MR. OLBERMANN: Well, that leads to the final question, sir. Is there any serious evidence at this point that suggests that the administration might not have been acting merely improperly but at least in some cases illegally?

MR. LEAHY: That's what we want to find out. We know at least one of these U.S. attorneys have been involved in high profile cases against public officials, actually sent one congressman to prison, and was looking at others. Why was this stopped? Was the next person told to continue the investigation or told if you want to keep this appointment, go a different way? These are things I want to ask. I mean, there are so many -- we've been given so many changing stories and we've been talked to a lot of people already and the stories keep changing. I'd like to get one story where we know what happened.

MR. OLBERMANN: Hence the use of the oath, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. A pleasure. Thank you for your time.

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