Senate Democrats subpoenaed Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Tuesday for testimony and documents about the Justice Department's legal advice to the White House on detention and interrogation policies since the 2001 terror attacks.
The Senate's Judiciary Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, complained to Mukasey that after five years of efforts to glean the information, the committee still has seen only a fraction of the documents it is seeking.
"There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee," Leahy wrote in a letter to Mukasey that accompanied the subpoena.
The Justice Department blasted the subpoena as a partisan move.
"We have worked in good faith over the past several months to see that the Judiciary Committee's legitimate oversight requests were being met in a manner consistent with the Justice Department's equally legitimate and long-standing need to provide confidential legal advice within the executive branch," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. "We will now assess our next steps."
The subpoena compels Mukasey to appear before Leahy's panel on Nov. 18 and bring with him documents from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel concerning the legality of White House policies toward military detainees.
Leahy wrote that Mukasey might satisfy the subpoena "initially" by providing an uncensored index of the legal memoranda he is seeking.
Leahy is unlikely to get the documents, given the waning months of the Bush presidency.
GOP complains of partisanship
At a committee hearing last month, Republicans complained that Leahy's effort to get the documents was partisan and the request too broad for Mukasey to comply with before the Nov. 4 election.
Nonetheless, the panel voted Sept. 25 along party lines to approve Leahy's authority to issue the subpoena.
Additionally, Bush could declare the requested materials off-limits under executive privilege, as he has in other disputes over Congress' access to executive branch deliberations.