09/16/2005 01:14 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Justice Department Balks at Turning Over Plame Records

In a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chair Peter Hoekstra yesterday, the Justice Department balked at turning documents related to the Plame investigation over to Congress. It said that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald advised that to do so would interfere with his criminal investigation, which "lawyers close to the investigation" (read, lawyers for those under investigation) expect to be concluded in the next few weeks.

As TalkLeft reported here, yesterday the House Judiciary Committee and International Relations Committee, in party-line votes, rejected a Congressional Resolution of Inquiry into the leak of the identity of former covert operative Valerie Plame. As anticipated, the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday also rejected the Resolution of Inquiry, again on a party line vote. Murray Waas notes:

Had the resolutions of inquiry been adopted, they would have lead to the first independent congressional inquiries of the Plame affair, and perhaps even the public testimony of senior Bush administration aides, such as Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, and I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, about their personal roles.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) points out the hypocrisy in the Justice Department's position:

"Let us not forget the endless hearings in this Committee and others on alleged Clinton-Gore campaign finance violations, the Whitewater claims, and Clinton White House Travel Office firings. These were matters all under Justice Department review at the time of our hearings.

What's more, check out this nugget from Murray Waas tonight:

A senior congressional staffer told me last night that the refusal to turn over information regarding Plame also stands in stark contrast to the manner in which the Justice Department dealt with a recent criminal investigation of former Clinton NSC advisor Sandy Berger. During the course of the criminal probe of Berger, the staffer pointed out, both Intelligence Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Jane Harmon, of California, received regular briefings from the Department of Justice while the investigation was ongoing.

I'm told that congressional sources now say that the State Department has begun sharing classified documents related to the Plame investigation with the House Intelligence Committee, even though the Justice Department refuses to do so. [Time Magazine reported on July 27, 2005, that it wasn't at all clear whether the State Department would agree to such disclosure.]

So what does it mean that three committees in two days have rejected the resolution of inquiry and that the Justice Department has balked at turning over documents in RoveGate but not Sandy Berger -- while the State Department has no such qualms? I think it's a pretty clear sign that the rejection was a political move by Republicans to try and shield Bush and Karl Rove from embarrassment, and worse.