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House committee subpoenas Gonzales documents

Story Highlights

• NEW: Justice spokesman calls subpoena of documents "unfortunate"
• Committee chairman says he has run out of patience
• Rep. John Conyers says Justice Department hasn't cooperated
• Justice Department being investigated about firings of U.S. attorneys
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Stepping up pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena Tuesday demanding additional Justice Department documents relating to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, chairman of the committee, said in a letter to Gonzales, he had been patient waiting for a response to the committee's request for additional material, but that the Justice Department had run out of time to comply voluntarily.

"At this point further delay in receiving these materials will not serve any constructive purpose," Conyers said. Read the letter and subpoena (PDF)

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department has already supplied "an extraordinary amount of information to the Congress."

"Because there are individual privacy interests implicated by publicly releasing this information, it is unfortunate that Congress would choose this option," Roehrkasse said. "In light of these concerns we will continue to work closely with congressional staff and we still hope and expect that we will be able to reach an accommodation with the Congress."

When asked if this statement represented a rejection of the congressional subpoena, the spokesman said only, "I'll let the statement speak for itself."

The subpoena calls both for complete copies of documents previously turned over in redacted form and for information on certain subjects the Justice Department does not want to turn over.

Among those subjects are replacement candidates for the fired U.S. prosecutors and how the department responded to congressional and media inquiries concerning the issue.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has sent the attorney general letters demanding a similar release of documents, but has not used its subpoena authority. The committee may consider its own subpoena for documents at a meeting Thursday but is also awaiting Gonzales' much-anticipated appearance before the panel next Tuesday. (Interactive: Key events in the U.S. attorney firings)

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, threatened to force the attorney general to testify a second time. Schumer, who is driving the investigation, issued a public statement that said, "The attorney general may need to testify again if all documents aren't produced by April 17."

Gonzales has been devoting much of his schedule to preparing for the hearing, which may determine whether he is keeps his job.

The Senate committee Tuesday broadened its previous demand for documents by asking for all material that involves the prosecution of an aide to Wisconsin's Democratic governor. That prosecution, led by the U.S. attorney in Milwaukee, resulted in a conviction that was overturned by a federal appeals court for lack of sufficient evidence.

Two top aides to Gonzales, chief of staff Kyle Sampson and counselor Monica Goodling, have resigned in the uproar over how the attorney firings were handled.

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U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday.

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