July 25th, 2007
12:23 PM ET
7 years ago

House panel recommends contempt for Miers, Bolten

The House Judiciary Committee is recommending contempt charges for White House aides Harriet Miers, above, and Josh Bolten.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted to recommend that Congress issue contempt citations to a former and a current White House official for failing to comply with subpoenas issued in the investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

The panel voted 22 to 17 on a resolution to cite former Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Their decision now goes to the House floor for a vote.

A Democratic leadership aide told CNN the full House is unlikely to take up the issue before its August recess.

"This is not a step that as chairman I take easily or lightly, but it is one I believe necessary - not only to allow us to gain an accurate picture but to protect our constitutional prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government," said committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., at the start of the meeting.

Miers was President Bush's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, before she removed herself from consideration in October 2005.

The citations were requested in response to Miers and Bosten's failure to comply with subpoenas issued by the committee for documents and testimony, including Miers' refusal to even appear at her scheduled hearing on July 12.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding alerted the committee on June 28 that the White House would not provide the documents as required by the subpoena, asserting President Bush's executive privilege.

"The investigation did not begin with the White House, but has ended up there only after a review of thousands of pages of documents and obtaining the testimony and interviews of 20 current and former Department of Justice employees," Conyers said.

"We have been open at all times to reasonable compromise, and have been fully respectful and cognizant of the prerogatives of the executive branch."

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Tom, Decatur, GA

    I don't like the Pro-Hillary/Anti Obama bias you've been showing lately. I'm going to be avoiding the CNN site for a few days in hopes that it changes. We don't need another FOX news.

    July 25, 2007 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Conyers is WASTING everyone's time and the taxpayers money!

    Here is the process of a congressional subpoena and contempt charges:

    1) A house panel issues a subpoena
    2) Individual refuses to show
    3) Panel requests contempt charges be filed
    4) The full House of Rep must vote to approve the contempt charges (first hurdle)
    5) If House approves contempt charges it then gets referred to the US Attorney
    6) The US Attorney can refuse to prosecute and can not be coerced by congress. The US Attorney falls under the executive branch (President).

    So... Conyers thinks the President it going to support the US Attorney pursuing contempt charges because Harriet Miers won't testify??


    July 25, 2007 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Andrew

    My question is that if congress issues contempt charges, can't Bush just pardon them immediately. Even if a court does rule down the line in favor of congress in the executive privilege matter what can congress do that the President can't pardon. I guess the founding fathers never imagined two tyrants in the White House.

    July 25, 2007 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. Erica, Seattle, Washington

    I wish that our country didn't have administrative problems as serious as these that threatened the basic structure of how our government works. I wish we could set aside time to deal with seriousl world issues like Global Poverty and not pump our finances (340 billion dollars) in the Iraq War (Borgen Project). Let's fix this together!

    July 25, 2007 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. slavin, Richmond VA

    Contempt is right. The Bush adminstration has shown nothing but to Congress, the Constitution and the people of the United States. Don't stop at these two, Mr. Conyers!

    July 25, 2007 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. Sam, Charlotte, NC

    About time Congress is standing up to the Bush Administration. Next will be prosecuting Gonzales for perjury, then impeaching the worst President in the history of this country.

    July 25, 2007 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  7. Les Aurora, Il

    Doing the right thing is never a waste of time. Impeachment that can never pass the senater would not be a waste of time. At least let it be recorded for posterity that we noticed a little bit that this administration flaunted our constitution so aggregiously.

    July 25, 2007 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Michael

    Au contraire, Jon.
    This is not a waste of time. It demonstrates to the nation the unmitigated gall of the Bush administration, who believes they can thumb their noses at Congress when they see fit-especially since the Democrats took over.

    It's just too bad that Bush can't be cited for contempt of Congress-we already know he has that contempt!

    July 25, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    can they appoint a special prosecutor because a conflict of interest exists?

    July 25, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. TJ, Orlando, FL

    ...and we came how close to this serving on our Supreme Court?!?

    1 year and she has somehow suddenly lost the respect for the law she at one time claimed she would uphold?

    July 25, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  11. Josh, Ann Arbor, MI

    It's worth a shot, if only to demonstrate to the american people the immense and unreasonable amount of power the president is presuming under executive privilege. This is an important step if not to achieve real action, but for the pure act of defiance to an executive branch that has long overstepped it's bounds.

    July 25, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. James Lampert, Fountain Valley, CA

    Re: Jon from Sacramento

    Not necessarily. While "statutory contempt" has the advantage of persisting beyond the current session, Congress still has the power ("inherent contempt") to send out its Sergeant at Arms to personally arrest an individual held in contempt, and haul that person's butt in front of Congress. And there's not one damn thing the Administration can do about it.

    July 25, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  13. Stan, Houston, Texas

    Executive branch does NOT have de facto immunity here. Two types of Congressional contempt proceedings 1) statuatory, where charges are referred to US Attorney, and 2) inherent contempt, in which the Congress does the prosecution. Serious stuff. Punishment can be imprisonment. See Wikipedia for details.

    July 25, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Travis, Maryville, Missouri

    So, if I understand what you're saying, Jon, it's that you acknowledge there has been wrongdoing on the part of the executive branch and you acknowledge there will be further wrongdoing because the president will order the US attorney not to prosecute Harriet Miers. Therefore, since those who have been in contempt by refusing to testify will be bailed out because of an truly unethical play by their boss that subverts the independence of the legislative and judicial branches, we should just leave it be?

    July 25, 2007 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Aaron, Denver CO

    If the President intervenes to prevent a U.S. Attorney from prosecuting contempt of Congress charges, the Congress *does* have recourse: Impeachment.

    July 25, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. Jody, Flint, MI

    It's better than doing nothing and just accepting imperial rule.

    July 25, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Douglas H DeGroat, Wallkill NY

    Being this is a US Attorney that will get the contempt charge, I'm 100% positive he's a "Loyal Bushy" so this will not go anyplace. Even if it did Komrade George will Pardon Miers and Bolton. So yeah, this is a waste of time.

    Impeachment is the only option to get rid of the kind of stink in the White House, but even that's a waste of time. By the time the whole process is over with, we'll have a new President.

    I don't see anything to do but wait out Komrade George at this point.

    July 25, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. MediaJunkie, Washington DC

    This whole thing is a debacle, but I don't know that it should be considered a waste of time or taxpayers money. It's probably a good idea to clarify how far executive privilege can go, and it has to go to the courts for that to be determined. U.S. Attorneys, although appointed by the president, are supposed to be apolitical. Even if Bush doesn't support the contempt charges being brought, he's not supposed to have a say in it. But wait, isn't that what the whole investigation is about? Politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys? How is trying to get the bottom of all of this a waste of time and taxpayers' money? Is the fact that many claim to know the outcome of such an investigation a strong enough argument to prevent it from taking place?

    July 25, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. Travis B Glade Spring, Virginia

    Obviously, the thought that legal action will be taken by the US attorney is futile. BUT to sit back and allow the Executive Branch to defy Congress and the American people is unacceptable. This does accomplish pressuring President Bush and the more times you refuse to cooperate the more guilty you appear.

    July 25, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. John, Kalamazoo, Michigan

    I think it is a legitimate issue. Perhaps we should just cancel the next election. I say best wishes to the committee and to the voters in 2008.
    The Congress could cancel the recess and stay and get some votes out of the way though.

    July 25, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Brendose, Oceanside Ca

    I agree that this is a complete waste of time. At the same time, this truly shows that President Hitler has complete power over the whole coverup situation. I think no matter which way Congress tries to go on this issue, the buck stops at the President and the US Attorney......why do you think Alberto won't resign? He is there to cover the President's rear.

    July 25, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  22. DF

    So, American Presidents and their entire staff, past and present, really are beyond the reach of any law that they do not voluntarily submit to?

    July 25, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. A. Bobotek, Redmond, WA

    While the path to prosecuting the contemptuous (ultimately Bush) is arduous, it is proper and to pursue it. How else will contempt be exposed?

    July 25, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. P.Grimes Indianapolis, IN

    Well then that would be a good time to appoint the special prosecutor that Spector suggested, or impeachment procedings for not vigorously defending the Constitution.

    July 25, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. IF Colorado

    Wasting time and money? Are we supposed to give up on checks and balances just because Bush ultimately makes his own rules as he goes? This contempt is not likely to advance beyond congress, since, again, those culpable are also in control of the system which would hold them liable. Every time Bush proclaims executive privilege, some semblance of truth has been avoided. Is this really how the constitution should be interpreted?

    Restore checks and balances!

    July 25, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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