June 23rd, 2008
03:30 PM ET
10 years ago

Judge reluctantly weighs contempt charges against Bush aides

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal judge Monday promised to rule "as soon as possible" on a Congressional demand for White House documents and testimony, but not before expressing reluctance to do so, and scolding both parties for refusing to compromise.

"I didn't volunteer for this," lamented U.S. District Court Judge John Bates during a contentious three-hour hearing focusing on the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

The battle stems from the House investigation of the controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department.

The Democratic-controlled House asked the judge to enforce a subpoena ordering former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to testify, and for Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton to produce internal documents on the issue.

The White House has refused to hand over the material, asserting executive privilege.

Justice Department attorney Carl Nichols, representing the government, said the judge could avoid "putting his thumb on the scale" by throwing out the lawsuit, but that a decision to support Congress would "fundamentally alter the separation of powers."

White House Counsel Fred Fielding and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, were among hundreds of onlookers in the ceremonial courtroom three blocks from Capitol Hill.

Bates appeared eager to find a solution which would avoid the court's intervention. He suggested sending the parties away to try further negotiations, but lawyers for the two sides accused one another of complete intransigence.

At one point, when House counsel Irv Nathan said Congress had the authority to send the Sargeant-at-Arms to arrest Miers, Bates suggested perhaps they should have done so.

Bates also indicated that it would be possible for the government to simply run out the clock. He said an appeal is certain no matter which way he rules, and the subpoena will expire when the current Congress leaves office in December.

Nathan acknowledged the outcome of the November elections will determine whether the next Congress chooses to re-new the subpoena.

Bates said he would give the matter the "time and attention it deserves" before ruling.

Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA





    June 23, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. Patrick Henry


    It's about time this administration (especially top staff–including GWB) were held accountable for skirting the law and the constitution in pursuing their own personal agenda–and not the public trust.

    June 23, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. What in the world!

    Any U.S. District Court judge who laments ""I didn't volunteer for this," from the bench needs to find a different line of work. Federal judges are appointed for life, yet this type of complaint from the bench smacks of one forced to rule against someone they favor. That is not impartial.

    Our courts fortunately are the barricade of our country's Constitution and laws. When politicians have trampled rights, liberties and freedoms, failed to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, then the courts are there to ensure the law of the land is upheld.

    So to hear a U. S. District Court Judge "lament" about doing his job it alarming.

    If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

    June 23, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. Oregon calling

    It's about D@#$#M time!

    Paying attention to the REAL issues? No more warmongering Please!

    Obama / DeFazio 08 🙂
    (hey a person can dream, can't they)

    June 23, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  5. Jaime

    Shut up and do your job judge, I know you didn't volunteer for this you unpatriotic piece, but you do work for me (the tax payer) so get to work you lazy public leach and put everyone in the Bush crime family behind bars. Sorry, but the hand greasing will stop in Novemember....

    June 23, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Looks like Bush has bought off the Judicial Branch of government.

    Executive privilege, my backside. Bush uses this phrase to cover up his mismanagement and out and out lies.

    Bush has got to go! We can not wait for the elections, we need impeachment NOW! Where the heck is Congress in all this?

    June 23, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. Ardnuas

    We need judges with some BACKBONE to stand up to the Bush Administration..... but, it will NOT happen.

    June 23, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  8. Texas Trail Dog

    Why weigh contempt. They're guilty as Hades of giving the CIA Lady's name to the newsman. They along with the newsman who released the Agent's name to the press should be tried as traitors. The newsman, Bush, Cheney are three traitors as large as Patrick Henry.

    June 23, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  9. linda from South Dakota

    sowhose bush payin off in this investigation???? let the truth be know,,,,, under the bush administration,, theres lot that isnt told to americans,, wonder why.. ummm come on judge,,, have it checked out ...

    June 23, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. Linda of Atlanta

    It seems to me that the Judge should require the Administration to turn over documents and require Administration officials to testify. If he doesn't, what will stop this Administration from repeating their practice of firing Democratic U.S. Attorneys who refuse to participate in the selective prosecution of Democratic public officials? The idea that Republicans can hide their dirty deeds behind executive privilege is outrageous. And it cannot be permitted to go uncheck.

    June 23, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  11. Peter North

    John Bates ...

    Do your job and rule in a timely manner. We'll be watching you.

    We can impeach you if you begin to forget whose interests you are suppose to serve.

    Anyone know who appoint Bates to the Federal judiciary?

    June 23, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. Enlightened Voter

    Those nine people were fired and their careers ruined because they disagreed with bush. BTW John MCWar supported their being fired. What does that tell you people? The repubs and mcwar will eliminate those in their way.

    June 23, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. D. Holiday, OH

    It's about time...burn baby burn! 🙂

    June 23, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  14. Bush Is An Idiot

    A little too late, the cookie jar is open and the contents are gone (our Constitution), but whatever.

    June 23, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. Mcshame

    Bush should be brought to justice with mccains lies

    June 23, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. James in Florida

    This Judge is trying to hender a Federal Investigation and is probably a Republican. Contempt Charges should be filed on Bush aides and they all should be made to testifi under oath including Bush and especially Cheney and Car Rove.

    If this Judge does not want to rule and uphold the law, let him be prosecuted for contempt himself.

    I think this Judge should be investigate immediatly.

    June 23, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  17. Sue in MI

    We have to get some answers from this White House-maybe it does mean arresting some criminals here. They are so afraid to talk....because they know they have been doing illegal things. I sincerely wish Pelosi had been the leader we expected her to be and gone after this administration a year ago! They are arrogant, Fascist in their beliefs, and have hurt this country. They deserve to be tried for war crimes as well. I hope this judge has a conscience and the ability to rule.

    June 23, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. Edward

    Perhaps this man should be something other than a judge. He "didn't volunteer for it."

    What's the problem? If you decide according to the rule of law then Cheney and Bush and their criminal administration will ruin your career, judge? Like they did to Valerie Plame, committing treason, I believe, in so doing?

    I cannot understand how this administration has been able to destroy our country, enrich themselves, break laws, cause the deaths of thousands, and no one will hold them accountable. Are there no people of values and substance at all involved in our government? To know that the brilliance of the founding fathers has been bequeathed to such an insatiably greedy, venal, and intellectually vapid group breaks my heart.

    June 23, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  19. Loretta from California

    Reluctantly? Are Judges suppose to express reluctance. Wouldn't this be perceived as a derelict in duty. Nice try Dems but the oil man has probably taken care of this ruling in advance.

    June 23, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  20. Vietnam Vet




    June 23, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  21. Upon Further Review

    Stand up like a man Bates.Hes scared the neocons will get him next.Do your duty and dont be a chickenlittle.

    June 23, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  22. jack shadenfruede

    I did not sign on for this WAR.Judge Bates is a disgrace.By tipping his hand about running out the clock he should take a job on TV.God save us with people like Bates in command of a court.

    June 23, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  23. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.

    Shut up and do your job.....................and start throwing members of the Bush Crime Family into jail!

    June 23, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  24. Floridian

    Look, I support Obama, but I understand where this judge is coming from – this is a politically motivated investigation and a no-win situation.

    Also, for everyone who says federal judges are lazy – there are lazy people in every profession, but most federal judges are very highly educated and do a really excellent job.

    June 23, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  25. Michelle from Colorado

    It would take a pretty stupid person not to realize that Bush has trounced on the Constitution of the United States time and again. And the way he has been able to do this is to fire lawyers with a conscience and get judges with none to hem and haw about how just or injust this was. slight of hand, folks. WSe don't need a judge to tell us whether Bush is a crook or not. We need one to punish him. But since Bush stacked the deck in his own favor, it will never happen.

    June 23, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
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