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Attorney general declines to investigate Bush advisers

  • Story Highlights
  • Decision concerns White House chief of staff and former White House counsel
  • House speaker: Officials unresponsive to Congress' probe of U.S. attorney firings
  • Mukasey: Their actions during the probe "did not constitute a crime"
  • House previously voted to find the officials in contempt of Congress
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey Friday said he will not ask a federal grand jury to investigate whether two top Bush administration officials should be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.

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Attorney General Michael Mukasey's decision had been widely expected.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday asked Mukasey to look into whether White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers committed contempt of Congress in the investigation of the 2006 firings of several U.S. attorneys.

Pelosi said the two were unresponsive to Congress' inquiry, while the White House argues that contempt laws don't apply to the president or any of his staffers who invoke executive privilege.

Mukasey, a Bush appointee, agreed.

"The department has determined that the noncompliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did not constitute a crime," Mukasey wrote in a letter to Pelosi.

"Therefore the department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers."

The response -- which had been widely expected -- drew quick criticism from Pelosi and other congressional Democrats.

"By ordering the U.S. Attorney to take no action in response to congressional subpoenas, the Bush Administration is continuing to politicize law enforcement, which undermines public confidence in our criminal justice system," Pelosi said in a written statement.

Earlier this month, the House voted to find Bolten and Miers in contempt of Congress and pursue charges against them.

The chamber's Republican minority staged a walkout before the vote.

Miers refused to testify in the investigation -- which stemmed from the Justice Department's dismissals of federal prosecutors in eight cities -- and Bolten failed to produce documents in his possession, Pelosi wrote to Mukasey Thursday.

The White House has said the firings were legal. But Democrats said the central questions behind the dismissals -- who decided the prosecutors should be ousted, and why -- remain unanswered.

Critics of the move have said prosecutors, including Republican appointees, who were not sufficiently supportive of Bush were targeted.

"Our investigation into the firing of United States attorneys revealed an administration and a Justice Department that seemed to put politics first," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, the chairman of the House Judiciary committee, in a written statement.

"[T]oday's decision to shelve the contempt process, in violation of a federal statute, shows that the White House will go to any lengths to keep its role in the U.S. attorney firings hidden."

Pelosi and Conyers said the Judiciary Committee anticipated Mukasey's response and is preparing to file a lawsuit in federal district court to try to enforce the committee's subpoenas of Miers and Bolten.

"As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that," Pelosi said.

The White House argues that forcing the aides to testify would violate the Constitution's separation of powers.

A spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement Thursday calling Pelosi's request a "partisan political stunt" and "complete waste of time." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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