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

Judge reluctantly weighs contempt charges against Bush aides

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/06/thecapitol.jpg caption=""]
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)

    Wait a minute, What the hell does he mean he didn't ask for this. FIRE THIS IDIOT!!!! AND REPLACE HIM WITH SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO DO THEIR JOB.
    I'm not concerned about his feelings or opinion (reluctancy). It is the law that he is suppose to be enforcing. Maybe he needs to be reminded of that.

    June 23, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. Mark

    The Democrats have turned even more disgusting than usual. They claim the Repubs are the divisive, hate-mongers, but this tribunal is all about getting press coverage. The supposed CIA leak was a non-issue. There were NO LAWS broken. Check the facts. That's why there were no charges other than a trumped up obstruction charge.

    I was hopeful when the dems took control that things would change. I was right, except not for the better.

    June 23, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. Mike from kentucky

    It will never happen says King Bush

    June 23, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  4. Nader

    Judge, in case you don't get it, you are part of the government and we are pissed!

    June 23, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  5. Cynthia

    I guess everyone else wishes they had the luxury of being reluctant to do our jobs – in the real world you would probably be fired.

    June 23, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  6. independent

    sounds like the judge doesnt want to do his job.how much does he earn?this administration should be on a road-trip, in orange jumpsuits,on an old gray bus.one way trip to leavenworth.

    June 23, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. PMuffet

    I am willing to bet this judge is a Bush appointee to the bench.

    June 23, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  8. Franky

    Run Mr. President!! Run!!! We gotta run!!!!

    June 23, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |

    What a waste Congress is!!!!!!! Get ready for 60% tax people. lmao
    Get ready for crappy hospitaL care!!

    June 23, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  10. Perla

    Every time I hear a Bushie claim "executive privilege," I say "Impeach the bums."

    June 23, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  11. Helen, NY

    These democrats have no other job. They just want to spend time and our money to go after George Bush. Some of the federal judges are also in link with these democrats.

    June 23, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  12. saga for Obama

    the chickens are going to come home to roost for the Bush administration...look forward to watching the new Fox reality show...Presidential Pardons, live from the white house. for to long they have been beyond the law, now we suffer... and people want to vote for Mr. Mccain? 4 more years? no way

    June 23, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  13. Long Arm of the Law

    I say yes - ARREST HARRIET!! Arrest anyone that has anything to do with the most corrupt administration in our nation's history. If she' s the only one we can reach at this moment - bring her in!

    And then don't stop until Bush and Cheney are sitting in the Hague!

    June 23, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  14. It's a done deal

    This judge is obviously a Republican. He should be dismissed and replaced with someone who isn't biased.

    June 23, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  15. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    This judge must be one of the family; you The Bush Crime Family1

    Look how many people still support Bush and this Bush crime family.

    June 23, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  16. TheTruthHurts

    This judge is like most. Trying to protect his hide by not having to piss off either side. Guess what? That's the j.O.B. of a judge. Sure they should have compromised, but your job wouldn't exist if that happened every time.

    What a joke? We can guess the answer.

    June 23, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  17. Joyce in Florida

    The Bush Administration is a disgrace and they are getting away with it. That judge should be FIRED. Why is everyone afraid to go against a President who has broken laws and should have been impeached years ago? Executive privilege my butt. I am sick and tired of hearing that comment as an excuse.

    June 23, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. James, Redlands, CA

    I don't expect the Congress to do anything. This is just an effort to document the complicity of the Bush administration for history. The House is not going to send anyone to jail and force Bush to pardon then (or commute sentences like Scooter).

    But it will be more testimony to way in which the Bush administration has used the Constitution like toilet paper. It will help to cement his place in history as one of the worst Presidents in history.

    He and Chaney should be impeached. But they've put this country and the world in such a mess that I think I would do us great harm as a nation.

    The sad thing is that they know that and continue to thumb their noses at us. Chaney has already said "So" to what the American people think and believe.

    June 23, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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