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WASHINGTON - Senators are demanding to see the e-mails of President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, as they continue their investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., issued a subpoena to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday, requesting the Justice Department turn over Rove's e-mails in its possession.
The White House has said that many of Rove's e-mails may have been deleted, but many were gathered as part of the probe into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
"Despite multiple requests for the department to produce documents voluntarily . . . the department's production of documents has been selective and incomplete," Leahy wrote to Gonzales.
The order compels the Justice Department to turn over "complete and unredacted versions of any and all e-mails and attachments to e-mails to, from, or copied to Karl Rove" related to the firings, written on White House, Republican National Committee or any other e-mail accounts.
The Justice Department did not comment on the request.
The White House has said it is trying to recover the e-mails, but has resisted turning over documents unless the committee agrees to ground rules limiting its investigation.
Leahy also asked the department to provide documents relating to an order issued by Gonzales that granted his former chief of staff, Utah native D. Kyle Sampson, and White House liaison Monica Goodling, the authority to hire and fire political appointees, with Gonzales' consent. The order was first reported by the political magazine National Journal.
Wednesday's subpoena is the first the committee has issued in its probe into why eight U.S. attorneys were asked to step down last year. Justice Department officials have told Congress the prosecutors were replaced for various performance-related reasons.
But six of the fired prosecutors disputed the reasons the department cited in written statements released by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and said no one at the department raised concerns about their performance.
Daniel Bogden, the former U.S. Attorney from Nevada, and Paul Charlton, the prosecutor for Arizona, took issue with claim that they had refused to pursue cases brought to them by Brent Ward, the head of the Justice Department's obscenity prosecution task force and a former U.S. Attorney for Utah.
"We simply did not have available attorney resources at that time to drop other priorities and pending cases to pursue a single, seemingly non-significant target in a matter that was still in the early investigatory stages, had not been fully investigated and still needed substantial work," Bogden said in his statement.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.