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Ex-Prosecutors Side with Congress in Subpoena Case

From The Associated Press
Original article available here.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Twenty former U.S. attorneys from both political parties sided with Congress and asked a federal judge on Thursday to settle a subpoena fight with the White House.

The former prosecutors filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit over whether Congress can demand documents and testimony from President Bush's closest aides.

The House Judiciary Committee wants to know whether some U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons, an issue that helped lead to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The White House says the president's former counsel Harriet Miers and chief of chief of staff Josh Bolten do not need to comply with the subpoenas, citing executive privilege, the principle that one branch of government can't make another branch do something.

Congress wants a judge to settle the issue but the Bush administration says the courts should not wade into a political dispute.

The list of former U.S. attorneys who filed the documents in U.S. District Court includes David C. Iglesias, who says he was fired as New Mexico's top prosecutor for political reasons. The prosecutors said that, without congressional oversight, presidents would be free to meddle in prosecutorial decisions.

"If permitted to enforce its subpoenas for documents and testimony, Congress has a unique ability to address improper partisan influence in the prosecutorial process," the former prosecutors wrote. "No other institution will fill the vacuum if Congress is unable to investigate and respond to this evil."

The prosecutors who signed on to the document are: Steve Sachs, who was appointed by President Johnson; George Beall, an appointee of President Nixon; Roxanne Conlin, James K. Robinson, Atlee W. Wampler III and Edward G. Warin, appointees of President Carter; Leon Kellner, Dan K. Webb and J. Alan Johnson, who were appointed by President Reagan; William Braniff, an appointee of the first President Bush; Zach Carter, Edward L. Dowd, B. Todd Jones, Doug Jones, Donald K. Stern, Sheldon Whitehouse and Alan Bersin, who were appointed by President Clinton; Bush appointees Iglesias and Matthew D. Orwig, and Richard Rossman, who was appointed by the court in 1980.

Four watchdog groups filed their own court papers Thursday also siding with Congress. Conservative groups Judicial Watch and the Rutherford Institute joined the Brennan Center for Justice and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, both liberal groups.

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