Video: Alberto Gonzales on the record

updated 3/28/2007 4:27:56 PM ET 2007-03-28T20:27:56

Lawmakers prodded the White House Wednesday for a new answer on whether President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, will testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

"We have not heard from you," Patrick Leahy of Vermont and John Conyers of Michigan, the Senate and House Judiciary committees' chairmen, wrote to President Bush's counsel, Fred Fielding.

The White House has indicated no willingness to move beyond Bush's initial offer to let Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and their deputies to speak to committee members, but only in private, without being sworn and off the record.

Request to reconsider
Those terms - particularly Fielding's insistence on there being no transcript - have been dismissed by lawmakers.

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"We hope that you will reconsider your 'all or nothing' approach," Leahy and Conyers said.

The two Democrats warned that silence from the White House would not be the end of the matter and cautioned Fielding to preserve all documents detailing the aides' roles in the firings. That includes, the chairmen said, e-mails they may have written on accounts outside the White House - such as the Republican National Committee and other political campaigns.

"We trust that you ... are not artificially limiting your production to the official white House e-mail and document retention system," the chairmen wrote.

Video: Durbin, Specter discuss Gonzales’ statements

There was no immediate reaction from the White House, but Bush and his spokesmen have said repeatedly that their offer is already a compromise of customary practice and that they do not intend to negotiate.

Gonzales' 'bumpy road'
The letter came as the man at the center of the furor, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, acknowledged Wednesday that he's in a precarious position.

"I'm traveling a bumpy road these days," Gonzales said during a brief luncheon speech to about 1,000 members of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

He made no direct reference to the uproar over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys that Democrats have dubbed "intimidation by purge" for those deemed not loyal enough to the president. Gonzales took no questions at the event.

A prolonged investigation
Leahy and Conyers suggested that they and Fielding narrow their disagreement over which documents and aides should be made available to the committee. They made clear that Democrats were not about to give up the investigation into the extent that the White House was involved in the firings.

Conyers was increasing his committee staff to deal with a prolonged investigation expected to wind through legal debates over executive privilege and the invoking of Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The burden of sorting through masses of documents - with more than 3,000 released so far - underscored the committee's need for extra help, Conyers said. He thus has approved a contract with the law firm Arnold & Porter worth up to $225,000 through the end of the year.

Republicans said the contract, which was first reported by The Washington Times, was evidence that Democrats were willing to invest taxpayer money in efforts to conduct political investigations of the administration, rather than pass legislation.

"Instead of funding show trials, the Democrats should show they care about passing a responsible budget and giving our military commanders in Iraq the resources they need to win," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, is to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sampson resigned earlier this month.

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