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U.S. congressional committee subpoenas Rice
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/26 15:59

U.S. congressional committee on Wednesday ramped up its investigation of the Bush administration, subpoenaing the testimony of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ccording to congressional voting records, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 21-10 to subpoena Rice as part of its investigation of the Bush administration's assertion that Iraq sought to purchase uranium in Africa -- a claim that was used to justify going to war in Iraq.

In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Harry Waxman, a Californian Democrat, said he prefers to issue subpoenas as a "last resort," adding that he felt he had "hit a brick wall" with Rice.

"For four years, I have been trying to get information from Rice on a variety of issues, including the reference to uranium and Niger in the president's 2003 State of the Union speech," Waxman said.

"My request is simple: I would like Secretary Rice to suggest a date that would be convenient for her to testify before our committee," he said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, quickly denounced the committee's actions, saying it is merely a "partisan show."

The committee also passed issuing subpoenas to Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Mike Duncan and for the e-mails White House officials composed on RNC e-mail accounts with regard to the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.

The committee's move is part of the Democratic-led Congress's ongoing investigations of the conducts of the Bush administration.



Washington Governor Signs Domestic Partnership Law
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/23 04:02

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation Saturday recognizing domestic partnership status for same-sex couples. The law guarantees gay and lesbian couples some of the legal rights that previously were afforded only to husband and wife. To be considered a legally recognizable domestic partnership, couples must be over the age of 18, live together and not be in a domestic relationship with anyone else. The legislation also introduces a state wide domestic partnership registry and affords same-sex couples hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and the ability to authorize medical decisions for their partner. The registry will also include heterosexual couples with one partner over the age of 62. Many of these couples have been hesitant to marry because of the repercussions for their pension or social security benefits.

The Washington State Senate and House of Representatives approved the bill in March and early April respectively. Opponents of the measure claim it erodes the institution of marriage, but the bill's supporters stressed the importance of granting equal rights to same-sex couples. The bill is the latest step in Washington's pioneering stance on gay civil rights which includes a revision of the state's Civil Rights Act to include the phrase "sexual orientation" among the classes of people protected from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment.



In Testimony, Gonzales Says Firings Were Justified
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/19 16:03

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is facing tough questions about his honesty and his competence from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. Gonzales defended his controversial decision to dismiss eight U.S. federal prosecutors late last year, saying it was "justified and should stand." Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican member of the panel, said he did not understand how Gonzales could say he played a "limited role" in the dismissals, after several of his aides had testified otherwise under oath. In a fiery exchange, Specter said he either had to question Gonzales's candidness or his judgment.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said the U.S. Department of Justice is experiencing an unparalleled crisis of leadership. He said Gonzales has undercut the credibility of the rule of law in the United States.

Gonzales is trying to explain the different explanations he has given about his involvement in the firings. Other Department of Justice officials also have given contradictory reasons for the firings, at first saying they were performance-related, and then backing away from that rationale.

Critics say they believe the firings were politically motivated and that President Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, was deeply involved.

The Bush administration has defended the firings, saying the prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president.

In prepared testimony released Sunday, Gonzales apologized for mishandling the matter, and says he was "less than precise" in his statements.

Committee Democrats are focusing many of their questions on the role Gonzales and the White House played in the firings of two prosecutors in the western states of California and New Mexico.

Gonzales has said that the prosecutors were dismissed as part of a management review designed to improve leadership in the Justice Department.



Newt Gingrich says Alberto Gonzales should resign
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/09 17:23

Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich said Sunday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should consider resigning in the wake of his role in the firings of eight US Attorneys. With his criticism of Gonzales' judgment, Gingrich joins a growing group of Republicans who have voiced displeasure with how the attorney general handled the firings. Several other Republican legislators, including administration allies, either support the call for Gonzales' resignation or are demanding an explanation. Gonzales is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 17. Last week, committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rejected attempts by the Bush administration to move up the date that Gonzales is scheduled to testify. The Senate Judiciary Committee has authorized subpoenas for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and several DOJ aides to testify and provide documents regarding the scandal. Monica M. Goodling, one of the key aides who took part in planning the US Attorney firings, submitted her resignation without cause Friday. Goodling's resignation, effective Saturday, is the third by a Department of Justice official involved in the controversy.

Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff who has since resigned, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that the prosecutors were fired for political reasons rather than for poor performance as the Justice Department has claimed. Gonzales has defended his role in the firings, admitting that there has been some confusion but saying that his involvement in the matter was limited to signing off on recommendations made by Sampson.



Bush defends Gonzales' role in US Attorney firings
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/02 04:28

US President George W. Bush again defended US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over his role in the firings of federal prosecutors in a press conference Saturday, saying that Gonzales has his "full confidence." Bush called Gonzales "an honorable and honest man" and said that "there is no credible evidence that there has been any wrongdoing. On Friday White House spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters that despite any reports to the contrary, the president has "100 percent confidence" in Gonzales. Gonzales will testify before Congress on April 17.

Gonzales defended his role in the firings on Friday, admitting that there has been some confusion but that his involvement in the matter was limited to signing off on recommendations made by his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson. Sampson, who resigned last month, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday that the prosecutors were fired for political reasons rather than for poor performance as the Justice Department has claimed. Sampson also said Gonzales did more than merely follow his recommendations, and that Gonzales and former White House counsel Harriet Miers were deeply involved in the firings. On Saturday Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska joined the call for Gonzales' resignation.



Hicks could face Australian control order after release
U.S. Legal News | 2007/04/02 04:27

The Australian Federal Police will determine whether Guantanamo Bay military prison detainee David Hicks will be subject to a control order when released from prison later this year, members of the Australian government said Sunday. On Friday a US military commission recommended sentencing Hicks to seven years in prison; all but nine months of that were effectively suspended by a military judge under the terms of a plea agreement kept secret from the panel of military officers during its deliberations. Hicks is expected to be returned to Australia to serve his prison term within two months, after having already spent more than five years in US custody since being captured in Afghanistan.

The controversial "control orders" authorized under Australia's 2005 anti-terror legislation allow "the overt close monitoring of terrorist suspects who pose a risk to the community." The first such order was issued in August 2006 and is still undergoing an appellate court challenge. Similar orders have been called unconstitutional in the European Union. Hicks' lawyer said Sunday that he plans to return to school and will not be a threat, but Australian officials have called him "dangerous" and seek closer surveillance.



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