Thursday, June 21, 2012
Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, today made the following comment in response to the White House press secretary’s statements this afternoon on Operation Fast and Furious.
“It’s necessary to correct and clarify a few comments from the White House press secretary this afternoon on Fast and Furious. His statement that the Administration has ‘provided Congress every document that pertains to the operation itself’ is hogwash. Through my investigation, I know there are reams of documents related to ‘the operation itself’ that the Justice Department has refused to turn over to Congress.
“For example, the earliest known Fast and Furious briefing paper was sent to ATF leadership on December 2, 2009. The Attorney General promised last summer that the Justice Department would send us all of the briefing papers. However, the Justice Department never provided what is arguably the most important one. The assertion that the Administration has given Congress every document related to Fast and Furious is just inaccurate.
“The accusation that I’m motivated by a desire for a ‘political scalp’ is baseless. Yes, I want the responsible people held accountable. An American agent died because of government policy and practice, and that can’t go unanswered. Whenever the government does damage, credibility demands telling the full story and taking appropriate action. Inaction erodes trust in government.
“If my approach to congressional oversight were dictated by political gain, I wouldn’t have voted to subpoena records from Alberto Gonzales and the Bush Justice Department over the firing of U.S. attorneys. I wouldn’t have voted to hold Bush White House officials in contempt in the same matter. I wouldn’t have voted to authorize subpoenas for documents on warrantless surveillance sought by the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee. These weren’t popular moves with my fellow Republicans, but I thought they were right. I’m committed to Congress’ constitutional responsibility of oversight regardless of which party is in the White House. Congress has the authority as elected representatives of the people to get the facts to inform our legislative duties under the Constitution. Any administration of any party should respect that.”
Links and documents describing the subpoena votes follow here.
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2007
Judiciary Committee Subpoena Vote
During a Judiciary Committee meeting this morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley asked that he be recorded in support of giving the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in consultation with the ranking member, the authority to issue subpoenas to White House officials regarding the Committee’s inquiry into the administration’s dismissal late last year of U.S. attorneys. Committee members voted by voice vote to give that authority to the Chairman.
"I wanted to express my support for getting the facts out on the table. The sooner we do that, the better. The executive branch - no matter who is President - is almost always extremely resistant to oversight requests from Congress. For example, I've been very frustrated in my efforts of the last year to get information about the Food and Drug Administration's actions with regard to an antibiotic. The FBI has continued to stonewall several of my requests. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight. I've worked to meet that responsibility both when the spotlight is on an issue and when it's not. Congress’ inquiries need to be legitimate oversight. I want to make sure that we do the right thing for the American people."
December 13, 2007
· Bad behavior
Senate Judiciary approves contempt resolutions against Rove, Bolten
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved contempt resolutions against Karl Rove, the former top aide to President Bush, and Joshua Bolten, the current White House chief of staff. The vote was 12-7.
The criminal contempt resolutions now move to the Senate floor, although no action on them is expected until next year.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member of Judiciary, voted in favor of issuing the contempt resolutions, saying the committee's oversight responsibilities must be upheld.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also supported the resolutions.
"It is a vote that I would prefer not to make," Specter said. "It is a vote I make with reluctance."
The House Judiciary Committee has also approved contempt resolutions against Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not set a date for a floor vote yet.
The committee subpoenaed Rove and Bolten over the summer as part of its probe into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year. Bush, citing executive privilege, refused to allow Rove and Bolten to testify or turn over documents to the panel. Bolten was subpoenaed in his role as custodian of White House records, while Rve called to testify over his knowledge on the role politics played in the firings.
Leahy said that he and Specter had working to modify the resolutions since they were first debated last week, but added that the panel must enforce its subpoenas if it is to be able to conduct effective oversight of the executive branch.
"The White House counsel asserts that executive privilege covers all documents and information in the possession of the White House," Leahy said, referring to White House counsel Fred Fielding. "They have further and claimed immunity even to have to appear and respond to this committee's subpoenas fr Mr. Rove and Mr. Bolten. And they contend that their blanket claim of executive privilege cannot be tested but must be accepted by the Congress as the last word."
Leahy called this stance "a dramatic break from the practices of every administration since World War II in responding to congressional committees."
Update: White House officials dismissed the Judiciary Committee vote as a political stunt, and they pointed out that Leahy had stated that the Justice Department under former President Clinton would not pursue criminal contempt citations against White House officials when it occurred back in 1999. The Justice Department has stated that it will not allow the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Jeffrey Taylor, to pursue this case in court. Taylor would normally represent Congress in any legal battle with the White House.
"Senate Democrats are showing that they're more interested in headlines than serious legislation, and they should be fully aware of the futility of pressing ahead on this," said Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, in a statement.
"It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, that the constitutional prerogatives of the President would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. Attorneys."
Perino added:"Senator Leahy may have summed it best in September 1999 when he said the following:
'The criminal contempt mechanism, see 2 U.S.C. section 192, which punishes as a misdemeanor a refusal to testify or produce documents to Congress, requires a referral to the Justice Department, which is not likely to pursue compliance in the likely event that the President asserts executive privilege in response to the request for certain documents or testimony.'"
Breaking: Senate Judiciary Committee Authorizes Subpoenas For NSA Domestic Spying Documents
By Faiz Shakir on Jun 21, 2007 at 1:58 pm
The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted 13-3 to authorize chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to issue subpoenas for documents related to the NSA warrantless surveillance program. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) voted with the Democrats on the committee to authorize the subpoenas for any legal opinions and advice the Bush administration has received regarding the NSA program.
The Center on Democracy & Technology has released a list of the seven “most wanted surveillance documents.” See the full list here.
The confrontation over the documents “could set the stage for a constitutional showdown over the separation of powers.” The Senate Judiciary Committee had previously scheduled to authorize subpoenas last week, but Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blocked the Judiciary Committee from voting on the subpoenas.
On May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee made at least its ninth formal request for the documents, but the Justice Department continued its stonewalling. Leahy issued the following statement about today’s vote:
This stonewalling is unacceptable and it must end. If the Administration will not carry out its responsibility to provide information to this Committee without a subpoena, we will issue one. If we do not, we are letting this Administration decide whether and how the Congress will do its job. [...]
Why has this Administration been so steadfast in its refusal? Deputy Attorney General Comey’s account suggests that some of these documents would reveal an Administration perfectly willing to ignore the law. Is that what they are hiding? [...]
Whatever the reason for the stonewalling, this Committee has stumbled in the dark for too long, attempting to do its job without the information it needs. We need this information to carry out our responsibilities under the Constitution. Unfortunately, it has become clear that we will not get it without a subpoena. I urge the adoption of the subpoena authorization.
The House Judiciary Committee has also threatened to subpoena the NSA documents. In a hearing last month, Principal Assistant Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Steven Bradbury refused the committee’s request to turn over the papers, but refused to assert executive privilege in doing so.