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April 10, 2007

BREAKING: Rep. Conyers Issues Subpoena Duces Tecum For DOJ Docs

Posted in: Congress,Justice Department,Legal,Oversight

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That stalling tactic on document production from the DoJ to Congress finally got old.  A Subpoena duces tecum has been issued for any and all documentary evidence pertaining to the USAtty firings, with a return date of April 16th at 2:00 pm ET at the Rayburn Building.  Cue the flash photography. 

Via reader nolo, we get a peek at the letter and subpoena duces tecum language from Rep. Conyers' House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  Here is the link directly to the original letter and subpoena text.  (PDF)  I'm going to reproduce part of the text of the letter from Rep. Conyers to Gonzales here for everyone:

Attached is a subpoena for documents and electronic information that we previously requested form the Department in connection with its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent termination of several United States Attorneys and related matters, which the Department has furnished to us thus far only in redacted form, or has told the Subcommittee it was withholding. The subpoena is being issued pursuant to authority granted by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on March 21, 2007.

I appreciate your cooperation in voluntarily supplying a number of documents in response to the Subcommittee's request. As we have written and told you and your staff on a number of occasions, however, and reiterated most recently in our letters of March 22, March 28, and April 2, 200, the incomplete response we have received thus far falls far short of what is needed for the Subcommitee and Committee to effectively exercise their oversight responsibilities in ascertaining the truth behind the very serious concerns that have been raised regarding this matter.

Our staffs have spent much time discussing our respective positions, without success. Since our initial request on March 8, we have been patient in allowing the Department to work through its concerns regarding the sensitive nature of some of these materials, and as more specifically set forth in our prior correspondence to you, we have sought to accommodate those concerns where it was possible to do. In this regard, you will note that certain items about which you have raised specific concerns are explicitly excepted from the subpoena. Unfortunately, the Department has not indicated any meaningful willingness to find a way to meet our legitimate needs, and at this point further delay in receiving these materials will not serve any constructive purpose(emphasis mine)

A subpoena duces tecum is a legal summons which requires you to bring documents with you to an appearance — for these purposes, to the Judiciary Committee staff, for their review.  In this case, the Judiciary Committee is requesting the following in its subpoena:  complete and unredacted copies of any and all documents pertaining to the firing of USAttys and any and all consideration of potential replacements thereto; complete and unredacted copies of communication with members of Congress about said terminations and/or replacements; complete and unredacted copies of communication with any of the terminated USAttys; complete and unredacted copies of correspondence with the White House with regard to handling responses to Congress and/or the media about these issues. 

In the letter, Rep. Conyers specifically requests not just paper documents, but electronic data (e-mails, files, etc.) including electronic metadata such as headers, directional information, and other such useful tracking data.  (Which says to me:  "Don't try to erase your trail, we're on to something here.")  April 16th is the day before Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Something tells me it's going to be a bumpy few days between now and then.

UPDATE:  My favorite paragraph from the Conyers letter, from the top of page 2: (PDF)

The Department is currently withholding significant information concerning U.S. Attorneys who were considered for termnation but were ultimately retained, and concerning individuals considered as replacement candidates. This information is clearly relevant to our inquiry into indications that U.S. Attorneys and candidates may have been evaluated based on improper considerations, including their willinginess to make decisions as to prosecution of public corruption cases based on whether it helped, or hurt, partisan political objectives.  (emphasis mine)

And that pretty much sums up my big question. Thanks.


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