Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Friday rejected referring the House’s contempt citations against two of President Bush’s top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey says they committed no crime.Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers were right in refusing to provide Congress White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.
“The department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers,” Mukasey wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Fortunately, Speaker Pelosi is not willing to let it go:
By ordering the U.S. Attorney to take no action in response to congressional subpoenas, the Bush Administration is continuing to politicize law enforcement, which undermines public confidence in our criminal justice system.Anticipating this response from the Administration, the House has already provided authority for the Judiciary Committee to file a civil enforcement action in federal district court and the House shall do so promptly. The American people demand that we uphold the law. As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that.
I also liked this bit from her original letter to Mukasey, which really drives the issue home:
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.
The Bush administration simply has no compunction about breaking the law, or misusing it to attack their enemies, because they own the sheriff. It’s like we’re living in a Dukesofhazzardocracy.
So kudos to Pelosi for going around the corrupt sheriff – but I’d be a hell of a lot more impressed if she hadn’t taken impeachment “off the table.”