Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to release unredacted copies of all documents regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
In a letter to Gonzales today, the senators said they want to determine whether the Justice Department had replacements in mind when it fired seven of the prosecutors. There already is “substantial evidence” that the eighth, U.S. attorney H.E. “Bud” Cummins of Arkansas, was ousted to make room for Tim Griffin, a former aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove, the senators said.
“Among the issues central to the ongoing inquiry is whether there was a plan to remove otherwise well-performing federal prosecutors, install relatively inexperienced political loyalists, and bypass the Senate’s constitutional role in confirming such officials,” said the letter signed by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California.
The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are investigating whether improper political considerations, such as hindering or pushing criminal investigations, were a factor in the eight dismissals last year. Gonzales’s handling of the firings has prompted calls for his ouster by top Democrats and several Republican lawmakers.
In their letter, the senators said Justice Department officials had said that, aside from the Cummins position, the government didn’t have successors in mind for the other U.S. attorneys who lost their positions, while several of the ousted prosecutors said they were asked to resign to make room for others.
Justice Department officials didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
The senators asked for complete versions of previously released e-mails and other documents from which portions had been redacted, and they also sought other documents they said had been entirely withheld.
“We are not satisfied by your selective production and unilateral redaction decisions,” the senators said.
In the letter, the senators said the committee will consider issuing subpoenas if the documents aren’t handed over. “We sincerely hope that we can work this out cooperatively with the department,” the senators wrote.