Subpoenas issued in U.S. attorney firings

Two congressional committees are issuing subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor on their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors, according to two officials familiar with the investigation.

Democrats probing whether the White House improperly dictated which prosecutors the Justice Department should fire also are subpoenaing the White House for all relevant documents, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not yet been formally made public.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for Taylor compels her to testify on July 11, while the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for Miers compels her testimony the next day.

“We’ll review them and respond appropriately,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The White House has repeatedly refused to make current and former officials involved in the firings available except in private interviews, without transcripts. Congressional investigators have refused that offer.

The subpoenas come a day after newly-released Justice Department documents revealed that Taylor was closely involved in the firings. In a Feb. 16 e-mail, Taylor described a U.S. attorney in Arkansas who was fired last year as “lazy” — “which is why we got rid of him in the first place,” according to to the documents.

Former prosecutor Bud Cummins, reached Tuesday night for comment, responded: “I’m sure I have some faults, but my work ethic hasn’t been one them.” Taylor also complained that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told senators that Cummins was replaced at the urging of Miers, who was White House counsel at the time.

It’s the first time during the five-month investigation that Congress is compelling testimony from White House insiders over the firings. Not yet on the subpoena list is President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, but only because Democrats have not yet finished interviewing those below him, the officials said.

Democrats say the firings are evidence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales allowed his traditionally independent federal law enforcement agency to be run, in effect, by the White House.

Republicans point out that U.S. attorneys serve at the president’s pleasure and can be fired for any reason, or none at all. Former and current top Justice Department officials have said the list of the eight fired was drawn up on the advice of several senior officials. E-mails made public have shown that Miers, Taylor and Rove were looped into the decisionmaking process and attended meetings on the firings.