Washington Lawmakers approved new subpoenas Wednesday for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration officials, part of an expanding legal battle between the Democratically controlled Congress and the administration over topics such as the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and flawed justifications for the war in Iraq.
The subpoena to Rice seeks to force her testimony about the claim that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger for its nuclear weapons program. President Bush offered that as a key rationale for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address. It was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, along party lines, 21 to 10.
The same panel also issued two subpoenas to the Republican National Committee for testimony and documents related to political presentations at the General Services Administration and the use of RNC e-mail accounts by White House aides, including presidential adviser Karl Rove.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 32 to 6 to grant limited immunity from prosecution to Monica Goodling, the former senior counselor and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about her role in the prosecutor firings. The panel also authorized, but did not issue, a subpoena that would compel her to testify.
And finally in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for Rove deputy Sara Taylor, whose name has appeared among thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents released by the Justice Department in the U.S. attorney firings.
The five subpoenas and related votes, approved over the course of two hours Wednesday morning, provided fresh evidence of the remarkable change since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Congressional committees have approved or issued more than two dozen subpoenas, most of them related to the U.S. attorney firings.
"A subpoena is not a request; it's a demand for information," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House oversight committee that issued the bulk of Wednesday's subpoenas. "They ought to understand it's no longer a request, it's no longer an option."
The White House signaled that it would continue to resist efforts to secure testimony from Rice, Rove and other aides. Spokesman Tony Fratto said that in Taylor's case, the committee should reconsider an earlier offer from the White House, which would allow aides to be interviewed without a transcript and not under oath.