A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Pelosi urges grand jury probe into Bolten, Miers contempt of Congress charges

[JURIST] US Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) [official website] Thursday called for the US Justice Department to launch a grand jury investigation to determine if misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges [H Res 979 materials] should be prosecuted against former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten [official profiles] for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into the US Attorneys firing scandal [JURIST news archive]. Pelosi made the request in letters [text] sent to US Attorney General Michael Mukasey and US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey Taylor, saying to Mukasey:

There is no authority by which persons may wholly ignore a subpoena and fail to appear as directed because a President unilaterally instructs them to do so. Even if a subpoenaed witness intends to assert a privilege in response to questions, the witness is not at liberty to disregard the subpoena and fail to appear at the required time and place. Surely, your Department would not tolerate that type of action if the witness were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury. Short of a formal assertion of executive privilege, which cannot be made in this case, there is no authority that permits a President to advise anyone to ignore a duly issued congressional subpoena for documents.

Your press spokesman has stated that you will "act promptly" to review this matter and reach a final decision. We will appreciate your acting with appropriate dispatch on this important matter. I strongly urge you to reconsider your position and to ensure that our nation is operating under the rule of law and not at presidential whim. If, however, you intend to persist in preventing Mr. Taylor from carrying out his statutory obligation to present this matter to the grand jury in the District of Columbia, we respectfully request that you inform us of that decision within one week from today, so that the House may proceed with a civil enforcement suit in federal district court.
The Justice Department has not commented on the letters, but the White House described Pelosi's request as "truly contemptible." AP has more.

Earlier this month, members of the House voted [JURIST report] to hold Miers in contempt of Congress [Cornell Law backgrounder] for failing to testify and both Miers and Bolten in contempt for refusing to produce documents related to the 2006-2007 firings. The White House has said that the information sought in the inquiry is protected by executive privilege [press briefing transcript] and that both Miers and Bolten are immune from prosecution.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.