Why Harriet’s Got What the HJC Wants

July 31, 2008 5:41 p.m.

Now that we have a partial decision on House Judiciary Committee v. Harriet Miers et al. , maybe it’s a good time for a little refresher on why the HJC wanted White House documents and Miers’ testimony in the first place.

Miers name came up repeatedly over the course of congressional investigations into the U.S. attorney firing scandal, over her communications with former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, Kyle Sampson.

Those communications revealed that Sampson and Miers began exchanging emails discussing the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, almost two years before those attorneys were purged from the department in December 2007. In March 2006, Sampson famously sent an email to Miers, ranking all of the sitting U.S. attorneys in order of “loyalty to the Attorney General.”

Though Miers initially suggested that all 93 U.S. attorneys be dismissed, Sampson vetoed that idea, with the approval of the Attorney General, and arranged for limited dismissals, ultimately providing Miers with a seven person list of targeted candidates to be considered for removal.

Outside of the emails, others were observing politicization first hand. In the late summer of 2006, U.S. Attorney John McKay, who would be requested to resign just a few months later, described sitting down with Miers and others for an interview on a federal judgeship. McKay was asked, “why Republicans in the state of Washington would be angry” with him in regards to his failure to prosecute allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race.

A few months before the U.S. attorneys were asked to resign, in September of 2006, Sampson again emailed Miers another list of possibilities, this time with nine people listed.

The majority of this information and correspondence came out in the testimony of Sampson and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the spring of 2007.

Naturally all of this piqued the interest of the House Judiciary Committee, who were also investigating the U.S. attorney firings. They subpoenaed Miers to testify, and requested relevant documents from the White House. Miers and Bolten, on behalf of the White House, both claimed executive privilege in late June, with Miers even refused to show up to the Congressional hearing.

This ticked off House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) who held both Miers and Bolten in contempt. As we discussed yesterday, the contempt vote then went to the full House for a vote, where it was upheld, and the lawsuit was filed.

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