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According to MSNBC just now, White House counsel Fred Fielding offered Democrats interviews with Karl Rove and other White House officials, but the testimony would be unsworn, behind closed doors, and no transcript would be permitted.

Both House and Senate Democrats already plan to vote on issuing subpoenas later this week.

Update: On CNN, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) just told reporters that "[Fielding] said he wanted this to be a conversation rather than a hearing. A conversation's fine. But let's have a conversation under oath with a transcript so we can see what has happened and weigh the testimony of these particular witnesses against the others.... Mr. Fielding indicated that he did not want to negotiate, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try."

In April, 2004, times were different. U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias hadn't yet drawn the ire of prominent conservatives by failing to indict a Democratic state senator shortly before the election or declining to pursue their pet voter fraud cases.

Then, he was in no danger of being fired. Rather, he was on the short list for being promoted to be the Director of the Executive Office of the United States Attorney. At least, that's according to an email from Kyle Sampson that listed U.S. attorneys who "might be enticed to leave their districts and come to Washington to run EOUSA."

Iglesias, who is Hispanic, appears on the list as a "diverse up-and-comer; solid."

Now, Iglesias, of course, didn't get the job. Michael Battle, formerly the U.S. Attorney for Buffalo (and, as an African-American, also "diverse") did. And irony of ironies, it was Battle who ended up making the call to fire Iglesias this past December. Battle tendered his resignation in January; his last day was Friday.

Ed. Note: Thanks to TPM Reader Matt for flagging this in the comments.

Here's the email frequently cited in today's press reports where Alberto Gonzales' right hand Kyle Sampson, responding to a question about whether U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins should testify before Congress, says, "I don't think he should."

It's clear why Sampson thought so. As Justice Department official Michael Elston wrote, relaying his conversation with Cummins, if he testified, Cummins “would tell the truth about his circumstances.” The truth, of course, was that Cummins had been forced out in order to install Karl Rove's former aide Timothy Griffin in his spot -- something that Cummins knew because he had been told as much. And Sampson didn't want that, as he clearly illustrated.

How would Cummins answer, Sampson wanted to know, several uncomfortable questions? But there's one question in particular that raised even my eyebrows: "Did Griffin ever talk about being AG appointed and avoiding Senate confirmation?"

Sounds to me like Griffin was in on the scheme to have him installed by bypasssing the Senate.

In his two appearances before Congress, Cummins wasn't asked that question. But I know what my next call will be...

Update: I reached Cummins just now, and he replied (ever the Southern gentleman) with "My answer is a polite 'I don't want to talk about it.'... I don't want to appear to be in any way trying to injure Mr. Griffin's prospects as to whether or not he can serve as a U.S. Attorney." He did add, however, that he would answer that question if subpoenaed and put under oath before Congress.

Ed. Note: Thanks to TPM Reader tekel for catching this in the comments.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) will hold a presser after his meeting wtih White House counsel Fred Fielding, so stay tuned.

From the AP:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to end the Bush administration's ability to unilaterally fill U.S. attorney vacancies as a backlash to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' firing of eight federal prosecutors.

Among the documents last night are some showing that the "performance related" reasons for firing eight prosecutors were the result of an ongoing collobaration at Justice. In other words, the officials appear to have brainstormed on the reasons they had fired the eight.

This document (the date's unclear, but it was clearly done after the firings), for instance, shows a list of the fired prosecutors with a "Leadership Assessment" column laying out the supposed problems with the prosecutors' performance. A Justice Department official made handwritten notes on the document, for instance adding to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias' deficiencies (a scant two bullet points) two items: "under-performing generally" and "lackluster manager." The official also added "use of time management" to San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam's performance woes.

Here's just one demonstration of the shifting rationale for the firings.

On the list of deficiencies for Nevada's Daniel Bogden, you can see a lot of writing in and crossing out going on. One of the bullet points (written in and then crossed out) is "Resistance to obscenity prosecutions." Now, as Salon detailed yesterday, that's a bogus charge. But that didn't stop them from using it. When Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who had nominated Bogden, inquired as to the reason for Bogden's firing, he was told it had to do with Bogden being insufficiently aggressive on "adult obscenity cases." But when Justice Department official William Moschella testifed before Congress in March, he said that there wasn't a "particular" reason for Bogden's firing, but "given the importance of [Bogden's] district," the department felt they needed "renewed energy, renewed vigor" in that office in order to "take it to the next level."

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At 10:15 tomorrow morning, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to issue subpoenas to Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson, Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley, and Rove's aide Scott Jennings, as well as White House and Justice Department documents, which have not been provided to date.

Today, current White House counsel Fred Fielding is expected to notify the congressional committees whether the White House will make Rove and others available. But House Democrats appear determined to hear from White House officials on their terms.

It was nothing personal.

Four months after the San Diego United States Attorney's office launched an investigation into whether he had accepted bribes from defense contractors, and little more than a month before he pled guilty to those charges, Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) signed on to a letter criticizing U.S. Attorney Carol Lam's "lax" handling of immigration crimes.

The letter, signed by 18 other Republican lawmakers, was sent October 20, 2005. Cunningham pled guilty November 28 to bribery charges and resigned from office.

You can see the letter, released last night, here.

Thanks to TPM Reader JM for the catch.

Note: A friend adds dryly: "Cunningham, in October '05, apparently thought there were crimes being committed that Lam wasn't prosecuting."

Fight to the finish? At a call around 7:15 this morning, President Bush called Alberto Gonzales to "reaffirm his support."

Here's the report from earlier this morning on MSNBC:

And the White House is also denying that it's looking for a successor to Gonzales.

Justice Job Considered for Ousted Prosecutor "With the Senate poised to rein in the attorney general's powers to appoint federal prosecutors, the Justice Department is engaged in discussions aimed at giving a new job to one of the seven U.S. attorneys dismissed without explanation on Dec. 7, according to a Capitol Hill Republican. Under fierce pressure from a Senate Republican, Justice Department officials are considering a new position for Daniel Bogden, the ousted U.S. attorney from Nevada who, agency officials explained to Congress, was dismissed in an effort to get "new energy" into the job." (Washington Post)

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