Leahy wants top White House aides to testify publicly.

Leahy wants top White House aides to testify publicly.

Leahy wants top White House aides to testify publicly.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 19 2007 6:03 AM

Public Demands

The New York Times leads with Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, saying he will continue to seek the public testimony of top White House officials relating to the fired U.S. attorneys. Leahy said his committee will vote Thursday on whether to issue subpoenas for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and William Kelley, deputy White House counsel. The Los Angeles Timesalso leads with statements made during the Sunday talk shows but focuses on how Senate Democrats are pointing to fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego as one of the most glaring examples of how the dismissals appear to have been politically motivated. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the new Palestinian government, which Israel's Cabinet voted to boycott yesterday. The United States agreed to keep its ban on aid to the Palestinian government, but it is under increased pressure because some key Arab allies have said they will support the new Hamas-Fatah coalition.  

The Washington Postleads with documents that further reveal the expenses that Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small charged to his employer and the taxpayer-supported institution considered authorized and "reasonable." The Post first looked into Small's expenses in late February. Today's story is full of details that reveal how Small was able to go through $2 million in housing and office expenses over the past six years. Included are such payments as $15,000 for replacing French doors at his home and $160,000 to redecorate his office. USA Todayleads with news that air travelers are still facing delays three days after a storm in the Northeast affected thousands of passengers. Airlines are starting to return to normal schedules but stranded passengers may have a tough time finding available seats because many of the flights are now filled with travelers on spring break.

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Some Republicans had suggested that perhaps a compromise could be reached by having Bush's top aides testify privately. But yesterday, Leahy rejected this option and insisted: "I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this." The White House counsel, Fred Fielding, is currently analyzing whether Rove and others will be allowed to testify and the administration said it will give Democrats an answer tomorrow. Democrats are citing a report that says presidential advisers have frequently testified in the past, but most believe it is unlikely that Bush will waive executive privilege and allow the public testimony of his top aides.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said  that on May 10, 2006, Lam notified the Justice Department about two search warrants relating to a Republican corruption case. The next day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, wrote an e-mail to the White House about a "real problem we have right now with Carol Lam."

As a further sign that Gonzales' days might be numbered the NYT notes, "none of the Republicans who took to the airwaves on Sunday offered a spirited defense of the administration." Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said he wouldn't be surprised if "a week from now, [Gonzales] is no longer attorney general."  The WP's editorial page offers up some suggestions of the characteristics Bush should look for in a new attorney general.

In related news, the Post goes inside with word that David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico, was asked to teach other prosecutors about how to pursue election crimes. Late last week, the White House said that part of the reason the U.S. attorneys were removed was because of complaints that they weren't being aggressive in pursuing voter fraud. But in 2005, Iglesias was one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a "voting integrity symposium." Iglesias says he was invited to teach about the same issues again a few months before he was fired but he couldn't attend. The Post uses this as an example of how much the Justice Department has been focusing on voter fraud cases since the 2000 election.   

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The NYT sees some divisions emerging between Israel and the United States on how to deal with the new Palestinian government. While the Israeli Cabinet voted in favor of a continuing boycott, the United States said it "won't rule out contact with certain individuals" in the Palestinain government.

USAT goes big on Page One with a survey that illustrates how, four years after the U.S.-led invasion, most Iraqis live in fear every day and don't have much hope for the future. The survey, sponsored by several news organizations, found that only one-third of Iraqis think the situation in their country will improve in the next year. All of the Baghdad residents who were part of the survey said they don't feel safe in their neighborhoods. Outside Baghdad, two-thirds of Iraqis say their neighborhood isn't safe. Most Iraqis also say that all the fighting has strained their mental health.

The WP also off-leads the anniversary with a look at how there have been few reliable statistics in four years of conflict. Numbers frequently change, and it has been impossible to know with any certainty such things as the total cost of the war, the number of prisoners, and the civilian casualties. But one thing is certain, says the WP in a separate Page One piece, four years of fighting in Iraq have left U.S. ground forces facing a critical shortage of personnel and equipment. This means there is no "strategic reserve" of ground troops that can respond quickly if a crisis erupts elsewhere.

Spot the crime … In an editorial observer piece, the NYT's Adam Cohen says that while the administration has done a bad job of explaining why the eight U.S. attorneys were fired, it "has been strangely successful" in arguing that nothing criminal took place. In law schools, students are often tested with an "issue spotter" question that requires them to look at a set of facts and determine the legal issues as well as the possibility that a crime was committed. Going through the emerging facts about the firings, Cohen says that "it is far too soon to say that anyone committed a crime … but if this were a law school issue spotter, any student who could not identify any laws that may have been broken would get an 'F.' "