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White House officials subpoenaed in U.S. attorneys probe

Story Highlights

Sources say no subpoena for Rove because they are still building case
Former White House political director subpoenaed in U.S. attorneys probe
Subpoena also issued for former White House counsel
• Committees also subpoenaed White House documents
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Subpoenas are being issued to two former White House officials, the first to be subpoenaed in the fired U.S. attorneys investigation.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday issued a subpoena to Sara Taylor, former White House political director. About the same time, it was announced that the House Judiciary Committee will issue a subpoena in the same case to former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Both committees say they will also subpoena documents from the White House, also a first in the investigation.

Taylor's lawyer, Neil Eggleston, said he would accept the subpoena on behalf of his client.

"Ms. Taylor takes her responsibilities as a citizen very seriously and she is hopeful the White House and the Congress are quickly able to work out an appropriate agreement on her cooperation with the Senate's procedures," Eggleston said.

The committees have issued subpoenas for officials and documents from the Justice Department. The committees are investigating whether the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year were politically motivated and whether the White House was involved.

E-mails and documents released by the Justice Department so far show the White House and other administration officials were more involved in the dismissals, and much earlier, than they had acknowledged.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the last batch of e-mails provided to investigators by the Justice Department "shows again that there was no wrongdoing in the replacement of U.S. attorneys."

Taylor resigned from her White House job in May. Miers resigned her White House post in January. President Bush nominated Miers to serve on the Supreme Court but later withdrew her nomination.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been authorized to subpoena several current and former White House officials including Taylor, Miers and Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser.

Two Democratic congressional sources said they decided not to subpoena Rove because they are building their case by talking to and gathering information from lower level witnesses and officials before they get to the more senior, more important witnesses.

"We want to build up and get documents to have basis to ask questions of Rove," one of the sources said. "It's the way you do it in any investigation."

Having said that, the source said it is likely the investigation will result in a constitutional showdown and Congress will not get to talk to any of the White House witnesses.

A White House statement issued Wednesday said: "We are aware of the Judiciary committees' plans to issue subpoenas. We will respond appropriately. The committees can easily obtain the facts they want without a confrontation by simply accepting our offer for documents and interviews. But it's clear that Sen. Leahy and Rep. [John] Conyers [D-Michigan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee] are more interested in drama than facts."

Leahy had warned the White House that subpoenas would be issued if it did not fully cooperate with the Senate effort to provide the desired information. He said earlier efforts to get information from the White House had been ignored.

In March, Bush said the White House had put forward a "reasonable proposal" by offering to let congressional committees interview Rove, Miers and their two top deputies. Those interviews would be conducted in private without an oath and without a transcript, according to a letter from White House counsel Fred Fielding to the heads of the Senate and House Judiciary committees.

Bush advised those committees to take the White House offer, rather than forcing "an avoidable confrontation" by issuing subpoenas for some of his key aides.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been accused of removing the prosecutors because of partisan concerns that they were either not doing enough to prosecute Democrats on voter fraud charges or going too far in pressing corruption charges against Republicans.

The White House denied the charges.

While Bush has stood firm in his support of the attorney general, a number of lawmakers, including seven from the president's own party, have called for the attorney general to resign.

An effort to hold a non-binding vote of no confidence on Gonzales on Monday failed.

In February 2005, Miers suggested to Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales' chief of staff, that all 93 of the nation's prosecutors be dismissed and replaced. However, Justice considered that too drastic a move.

Justice Department regulations urge federal prosecutors to be "extremely careful" about conducting voter fraud investigations in the weeks before an election, warning that such inquiries could become campaign issues themselves.

In a written statement to one committee, Sampson has said none of the prosecutors were sacked "for an improper reason," such as to influence an ongoing investigation.

But he acknowledged that the process -- which has led to a firestorm on Capitol Hill -- was "badly mishandled."

Sampson has said he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, who some have called the ninth fired federal prosecutor, told a Senate panel Tuesday he was clearly "given a push" to quit his post in Kansas City, Missouri, in January 2006, but would not give a judgment on whether he should be lumped with the eight U.S. attorneys fired later that year.

CNN's Dana Bash and Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.


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Sara Taylor served as White House political director until she resigned in May.

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