Chairman Conyers Prepares to File Contempt Report
November 5, 2007
From the Judiciary Committee:
Conyers Offers White House Last Chance to Comply with Committee Subpoenas, Files Contempt Report
(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) offered White House Counsel Fred Fielding yet another opportunity to negotiate terms and agree on compliance with the committee’s subpoenas issued to Joshua Bolten, for documents, and Harriet Miers, for documents and testimony. The two were subpoenaed earlier this year as part of the ongoing U.S. Attorney investigation. Conyers sent a letter to Fielding today, laying out a final proposed compromise solution – the ninth such letter sent. The Committee will also file its contempt report with the House clerk when the House begins its legislative business at 2:00 p.m., which would allow a contempt of Congress vote in the full House to move forward if Fielding rejects this final offer.
“I have written to you on eight previous occasions attempting to reach agreement on this matter,” Conyers writes. “As we submit the Committee's contempt report to the full House, I am writing one more time to seek to resolve this issue on a cooperative basis.”
Specifically, Conyers requested that the following terms be met:
1. The White House would provide the Committee with copies of documents reflecting communications between White House staff and persons outside the White House relating to the U.S. Attorney terminations and related matters.
2. The White House would make available for confidential staff review the remaining, internal White House documents relating to the same subjects, after which the Committee would identify what would most probably be a smaller number of such documents for production.
3. The Committee and White House would specify present and former White House staffers for interviews but would not require those persons to be under oath.
Conyers notes that the White House has agreed to similar terms for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into Pat Tillman’s death. Further, several of the same agreements were successfully carried out with Justice Department interviews and document production.
“I hope you will consider this offer in earnest and based upon the good faith with which it is delivered,” Conyers concludes. Conyers asks Fielding to respond by November 9.
The full text of the committee’s contempt report will be available on the Judiciary Committee website when the report is filed after 2:00 p.m. today. Full text of Chairman Conyers’ new letter to Fielding:
November 5, 2007
Mr. Fred Fielding
Counsel to the President
Office of Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Fielding:
As you know, the Judiciary Committee has been seeking for more than six months to obtain information from the White House concerning the forced resignations of nine United States Attorneys in 2006 and related matters. This has included the Committee finding in July that White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers were in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas issued to them for documents and testimony. Unfortunately, I have received no response to my July 25 letter to you, which again sought to resolve this issue. In fact, I have written to you on eight previous occasions attempting to reach agreement on this matter.1 As we submit the Committee's contempt report to the full House, I am writing one more time to seek to resolve this issue on a cooperative basis.
In a number of my previous letters, I have offered several constructive paths in an effort to reach agreement. Let me now suggest another specific proposal based on these letters and previous offers, including your previous letter to us, and based specifically on previous agreements that this Administration has already reached with Congressional committees during this Congress.
I propose that initially, the White House would provide the Committee with copies of documents reflecting communications between White House staff and persons outside the White House relating to the U.S. Attorney terminations and related matters. This was part of your conditional offer in March, and the White House agreed without such conditions to provide such documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as part of its investigation into the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman. Second, the White House would make available for confidential staff review the remaining, internal White House documents relating to the same subjects, after which the Committee would identify what would most probably be a smaller number of such documents for production. This is precisely the procedure that the White House agreed to follow in the Tillman investigation, in which approximately 450 pages of internal White House documents were confidentially reviewed by Congressional staff and a smaller number were then requested by the Committee and produced by the White House, and that was followed with respect to documents initially withheld by the Justice Department in the U.S. Attorney investigation.
Finally, we would mutually identify relevant present and former White House staffers for on-the-record interviews, following the procedure agreed to by the Justice Department and successfully utilized in a dozen such interviews this year in the U.S. Attorney investigation. The area of questioning would be limited to the US Attorney terminations and related matters. These staff members would initially include those specified in your March 20 letter, and we are prepared to consider conducting these interviews without requiring that the witnesses be under oath, as occurred in the Justice Department interviews.
As the Congressional Research Service has reported, there are at least 74 instances since World War II where even sitting White House advisers, including White House counsel, have testified before Congress, and previous Administrations, even after initially asserting executive privilege, have reconsidered and agreed to “full or substantial compliance” with Congressional committee requests once there was a committee contempt vote. I very much hope that we can similarly avoid a constitutional confrontation in this case. This is not, and should not be treated as, a partisan or ideological issue, but instead a question of good government. As Republican former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh recently testified before our Committee, “citizens of the United States must have confidence” that the Department of Justice “is conducting itself in a fair and impartial” manner, “without actual political influence or the appearance of political influence.”
I hope you will consider this offer in earnest and based upon the good faith with which it is delivered. Please respond at your earliest convenience, and in no event later than the end of this week, November 9. As always, responses and questions should be directed to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (tel.: 202-225-3951; fax: 202-225-7680).
John Conyers, Jr.
cc: Hon. Lamar S. Smith
Hon. Linda T. SÃƒÂ¡nchez
Hon. Chris Cannon