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US Congress Subpoenas Former White House Officials


Congressional committees have taken legal steps to compel two former White House aides to testify in public about the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports it is the latest sign of escalating tensions between the Bush administration and the Democratic Party majority in the legislature.

The House and Senate committees issued subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor on their roles in the firings of eight U.S. prosecutors

The committees are looking into allegations some of these eight were sacked because they refused to do the bidding of Republican office holders and fell out of favor at the White House. The hiring and firing of prosecutors is supposed to be free of political interference.

President Bush has offered to make documents and closed-door interviews with present and former officials available to congressional investigators. But many lawmakers say that is not enough.

At a briefing for reporters, presidential spokesman Tony Snow was asked if the White House will contest the subpoenas in court. "We're going to review the subpoenas and we will respond appropriately," he said.

Snow said once again that the administration acted within its authority in firing the prosecutors and that nothing illegal was done. He said White House aides should not be compelled to testify before Congress and the public, because it would damage their ability to offer confidential advice to the president.

On Capitol Hill, a prominent Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Schumer of New York, said the subpoenas were a last resort.

"Today, the House and Senate have said that we realize the White House is never going to cooperate and we have to go the subpoena route. It is sad that it has come to this," he said.

Democrats say the firings provide proof that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has allowed White House political considerations to affect the work of the traditionally independent Justice Department. On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to get a symbolic vote of no confidence in Gonzales.

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