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Congressional Committees Subpoena Rice, Former Justice Official


A congressional committee controlled by Democrats has issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice compelling her testimony on one of the administration's key justifications, later discredited, for war in Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports another panel authorized a subpoena to a former Department of Justice official involved in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The subpoenas are part of a broad offensive by majority Democrats to exert what they say is appropriate oversight of administration policies and to press investigations of such issues as the firing of U.S. prosecutors and the pre-Iraq war intelligence.

By a vote of 21 to 10, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Chairman Henry Waxman, a Democrat, has been seeking Rice's testimony about what she knew about the claim by the administration that Iraq, before the U.S. invasion, sought uranium from Niger.

That claim, used by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union Address, later proved to be false.

Rice sent three written responses, but Waxman says she has refused to testify about what he calls unanswered questions regarding a matter that was key to the administration's public justification for war.

"There is nothing extraordinary about our committee's request, but we have hit a brick wall with the secretary of state," said Henry Waxman. "She will not propose a date to testify, she will not agree to testify, and she insists that our committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees."

Congressman Tom Davis was among Republicans objecting, saying the issues Waxman wants to raise have all been answered by Rice before at various times and testifying would interrupt urgent diplomatic missions.

"This precedent would make testifying up here her full time job, to the detriment of our national security and stature," said Tom Davis. "And the questions allegedly driving this effort to compel the nation's top diplomat to spend days of her valuable time preparing and testifying have either been asked and answered in other forums, or can be answered just as completely by someone else."

At the State Department, spokesman Tom Casey said the committee's action has been noted, adding the department will consult with the White House. He reiterated the secretary's position that the Niger-Iraq issue has been "addressed on many occasions and the subject already has been exhaustively investigated."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the subpoena an "over-reach" by Democrats.

The oversight panel postponed a vote on issuing a subpoena to former White House chief of staff Andrew Card relating to the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak case, saying the panel will review an offer from the White House counsel.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32 to 6 to grant immunity from prosecution to Monica Goodling, who was a key aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and it authorized - but did not issue - a subpoena for her to testify. Goodling resigned her post earlier this month.

Goodling has refused to testify before Congress, citing her rights under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects individuals from self-incrimination.

The judiciary committee in the Senate voted to authorize, but not yet issue, a subpoena to a deputy to Karl Rove, President Bush's adviser, to testify about the White House role in the firings of the federal prosecutors.