September 30, 2008

Whitehouse to Mukasey: Unanswered Questions Linger in DOJ Report

Former U.S. Attorney Asks Attorney General to Clarify His Role in OIG-OPR Investigation, New Prosecutor’s Powers to Compel Evidence from White House

Washington, D.C. – In response to a Justice Department report on its internal investigation into the firing of several United States Attorneys in late 2006, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to explain how it is that the White House was allowed not to cooperate with the investigation, and what authority will be vested in Nora Dannehy, the prosecutor named to continue the inquiry.

The report, released Monday morning, was written by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

“When OIG and OPR are unable to get information material to their investigation from the White House, from former Bush Administration officials, and even from the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel, the American people aren’t getting the whole story,” said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General who played a leading role in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the firings.

“We need to know whether Attorney General Mukasey will stand behind his career attorneys, or accept the continued White House cover-up of the truth behind these firings. And we need to know what authority the Attorney General will give Nora Dannehy to compel the White House and others to cooperate – and whether the evidence she develops will ever be available to the public.”

In a letter to the Attorney General today, Whitehouse raised concerns about the report’s statements that “there are gaps in [the] investigation because of the refusal of certain key witnesses to be interviewed” by OIG and OPR, including former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, and former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling. The report also indicated that the White House refused to provide relevant internal documents, and that even the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a component of the Justice Department, refused to cooperate fully with the investigation pursuant to instruction by the White House.

Whitehouse also requested “further clarification of the scope of the powers” assigned to Dannehy, including whether her authority would be limited to an investigation of potential criminal conduct, whether she would have the power to subpoena OLC, the White House, and other agencies if necessary, and whether she would be bound by grand jury rules that could prevent her from sharing any information she gains with OIG and OPR.

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