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Waxman may subpoena Rice, Card

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April 21, 2007

If President Bush’s former chief of staff can chat about the identifying of CIA agent Valerie Plame on Jon Stewart’s comedy show, he can talk about it to the House oversight committee, the panel’s chairman said Friday. If Andy Card refuses, the panel will vote Wednesday on whether to compel his testimony with a subpoena, said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding has declined to let Card testify.

“Mr. Fielding’s position appears to be that it is appropriate for you to discuss these matters on ‘The Daily Show’ but not before a congressional committee,” Waxman wrote to Card on Friday. “You will not be surprised to learn that I take a different view of this matter.”

Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that if Card won’t agree to appear voluntarily before Wednesday’s meeting, the panel will vote on whether to issue him a subpoena.

Also being considered for a subpoena on a related issue: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Waxman wants to know what Rice knows about the administration’s claim, later discredited, that Iraq sought uranium from Africa.

“I hope we can work together over the next week to schedule a voluntary appearance by you before the committee,” Waxman wrote to Rice on Tuesday. “That would eliminate the need for the use of any compulsory process.”

Fielding’s refusal stands, responded White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

“There hasn’t been a change,” he said. “Current and former senior White House officials have historically not been available to Congress to testify, or to be interviewed, about their activities in serving the president.”

Waxman disputed that version of history, noting that several Clinton administration officials testified before the same panel — then Republican-controlled — on campaign finance matters and presidential pardons.

The subpoena threats against Card and Rice are the latest political punch that majority Democrats have thrown at the White House, vowing to end Bush’s six-year run as president virtually without oversight.

A day earlier, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales limped away from a brutal confrontation with the Senate Judiciary Committee over the firings of eight federal prosecutors, in which even White House allies questioned his veracity and command of the Justice Department.

Waxman is taking aim at the firings, too. His committee’s agenda Wednesday includes a vote on a subpoena for Republican National Committee documents related to e-mails written by White House officials and possibly deleted in violation of the law.

But the outing of Valerie Plame has been of longtime interest for Waxman. Plame was unmasked as a CIA officer in mid-2003 after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Waxman says Plame is the victim of a White House drive to discredit her husband after he publicly disputed Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein was on the brink of acquiring a nuclear bomb.

No one was charged with the leak itself, including the initial source of the disclosure, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Scooter Libby, was convicted of lying and obstructing the investigation.

–LAURIE KELLMAN

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Associated Press Writer Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press