Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) angrily threatened yesterday to issue subpoenas “if the White House continues to stonewall” his panel’s investigation into fired U.S. attorneys, reports McClatchy Newspapers. Leahy was “deeply troubled” by what he called White House efforts to “manipulate the (Justice) Department into its own political arm.” Former Acting Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman faced harsh questioning from Leahy and other Democrats over hiring practices, handling of a complaint of voter discrimination against Native Americans, and his decision as U.S. attorney in Kansas City to seek voter fraud indictments just before the 2006 congressional election.
Schlozman stated repeatedly that he never “crossed the line” of improperly inserting political concerns into the administration of justice. Schlozman acknowledged reaching out to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, for Justice Department recruits and boasting that he’d brought in a large number of Republicans to one of the department’s units. A central figure in the controversy that began with the firing last year of eight U.S. attorneys, Schlozman, 36, was a pivotal player in civil rights policies as the division’s top deputy and acting chief for five months in 2005. He made the committee wait three weeks for his testimony and said he spent 25 to 30 hours preparing. He identified five senior department officials who helped him prepare for the hearing.