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Senator subpoenas Rove's e-mails in attorney firings case

Story Highlights

• Sen. Patrick Leahy issued a subpoena for e-mails by Karl Rove
• E-mails pertain to last year's firings of eight U.S. attorneys
• E-mails reported "lost" had been turned over to Justice Department, Leahy said
• Gonzales will have to appear before Judiciary Committee if no response by May 15
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman issued a subpoena Wednesday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in an attempt to get e-mails that President Bush's top political adviser sent regarding last year's firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Gonzales will have to appear before the committee if the Department of Justice does not respond to the subpoena for Karl Rove's e-mails by May 15.

Justice Department Spokesman Dean Boyd said the department had received the subpoena and was reviewing it. (Read the subpoena, PDFexternal link)

"The Justice Department has already turned over more than 6,000 pages of documents and e-mails to House and Senate committees and voluntarily provided Congress with hours of interviews of several senior Justice Department officials," Boyd said. "Furthermore, the attorney general last month provided six hours of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee."

In a letter to Gonzales, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said he had asked Gonzales twice for the e-mails -- once at an April 19 hearing where the attorney general testified about the dismissals and again in an April 25 letter to the Cabinet member.

Rove's attorney said publicly that the e-mails -- many of which were reported to be "lost" -- had been turned over to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, according to Leahy.

Fitzgerald was using them in his investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, Rove's lawyer said. That probe led to the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Leahy said when he questioned Gonzales about the location of the e-mails at the hearing, he said he would look into it and get back to the senator.

"You responded at the hearing that you did not know but would check and get back to me. I have not heard back from you since in response to my question or the letter," Leahy said in the letter.

"I also ask for an immediate response to and full compliance with the outstanding requests for information by the committee and its members to avoid further subpoenas," Leahy wrote.

Gonzales has been accused of dismissing seven prosecutors because of concerns that they were either not doing enough to prosecute Democrats on voter fraud charges or were doing too much in pursuing corruption charges against Republicans. The White House has denied the claims.

The Bush administration has acknowledged that the White House counsel's office did approve replacing an eighth prosecutor, as U.S. attorney in Arkansas, with a protege of Rove.

The president can legally replace U.S. attorneys but usually does so at the start of a term of office. The midterm firings sparked accusations that some of the dismissals were politically motivated.

Leahy has insisted Rove and other top aides to Bush must testify publicly and under oath before the committee about the prosecutors. He has rejected suggestions that Rove and other Bush officials be interviewed privately instead.

Sen. Patrick Leahy issued a subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for e-mails from Karl Rove.



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