Mukasey to Pelosi: I've Got Your Contempt Right Here

Attorney General Michael Mukasey has informed Nancy Pelosi that he will not enforce the contempt citations issued by the House last week. He informed the Speaker that neither Josh Bolten nor Harriet Miers committed any crimes, and therefore the Department of Justice didn’t really see the need to prosecute them:

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused on Friday to pursue contempt citations issued by the House of Representatives against a current and a former White House aide for not cooperating in a probe of the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Saying no crime was committed, Mukasey rejected a request by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to refer the citations to a federal grand jury investigation of current White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

“The Department has determined that the non-compliance by Mr. Bolten and Ms. Miers with the Judiciary Committee subpoenas did not constitute a crime, and 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,” Mukasey said in a letter to Pelosi.

The next step will be for the House to file a lawsuit against the DoJ to force them into prosecuting the citations. That gets into some sticky areas of the law. The concepts of executive privilege have not fully been tested in the courts, and until now both elective branches have done their best to avoid an all-out legal confrontation.

In this case, though, the House has been itching for a fight. The White House has offered to meet the committee members partway, but they have insisted on demanding that the Bush administration give up its claim on executive privilege instead — which no one ever believed they would do. Mukasey found that Bush’s use of executive privilege meets legal requirements.

Now the courts will have to make a decision that will make one branch or another very unhappy, and for a very long time — all over terminations that were obviously in the purview of the executive, and after a fishing expedition that produced nothing more than an incompetent AG. Thankfully, we have a much more talented replacement at the helm.