The subpoena, issued a week before Gonzales was scheduled to testify before Congress about the dismissals, seeks hundreds of documents either withheld or heavily blacked out by his department. The subpoena sets a Monday deadline for Gonzales to produce the documents.
"We have been patient in allowing the department to work through its concerns regarding the sensitive nature of some of these materials," House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., wrote Gonzales in a letter accompanying the subpoena. "Unfortunately, the department has not indicated any meaningful willingness to find a way to meet our legitimate needs."
Conyers characterized the subpoena as a last resort after weeks of negotiations with Justice over documents and e-mails the committee wants in its pursuit of whether any of the firings were improper.
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse stopped short of saying the department would fight the subpoena. But he said legal concerns about violating privacy rights of people mentioned in the documents have kept Justice from releasing them.
"Because there are individuals' 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."
Conyers' counterpart, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Gonzales in a letter for documents on the firings that have been retained by Justice.