Senate Judiciary Chairman subpoenas Karl Rove
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy announced Thursday he had subpoenaed White House adviser Karl Rove and his deputy. He accused them of stonewalling a widening probe into the firing of federal prosecutors.
"The Bush-Cheney White House continues to place great strains on our constitutional system of checks and balances," Leahy said in issuing the subpoenas. "Not since the darkest days of the Nixon Administration have we seen efforts to corrupt federal law enforcement for partisan political gain and such efforts to avoid accountability."
The Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to Rove and Deputy White House political director J. Scott Jennings. The deadline for testimony and documents is Aug. 2 at 10 a.m.
"We have now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States Attorneys last year," Leahy said, according to The Associated Press.
In a letter to Rove, Leahy lamented that the subpoena he issued was a last resort.
"I have issued this subpoena after exhausting every avenue for voluntary cooperation from you and the White House," Leahy wrote. "I hope that the White House takes this opportunity to reconsider its blanket claim of executive privilege, especially in light of the testimony that the President was not involved in the dismissals of these U.S. Attorneys. I am left to ask what the White House is so intent on hiding that it cannot even identify the documents, the dates, the authors and recipients that they claim are privileged."
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee also called for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied under oath when he testified before Congress.
"It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements," four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement.
Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has not yet weighed in on the Rove subpoenas, and is expected to speak at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
E-mails released by the Justice Department have shown Rove was involved in discussions over the firing of US Attorneys. Nine attorneys were dismissed or resigned abruptly last year, and Democrats argue they were dismissed for political reasons.
The White House quickly defended its political brain-trust, accusing Democrats of partisanship in their pursuit of information about the US Attorneys' dismissal.
"Every day congressional Democrats prove that they're more interested in headlines than doing the business Americans want them to do," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told the AP. "And Americans are now taking notice that this Congress, under Democratic leadership, is failing to tackle important issues."
But Leahy said the investigation and subpoenas were necessary to maintain transparent, balanced government.
"[A]n ever-growing series of controversies and scandals have revealed an Administration driven by a vision of an all-power Executive over our constitutional system of checks and balances, one that values loyalty over judgment, secrecy over openness, and ideology over competence," Leahy said.
The Judiciary Committee earlier this year heard limited testimony from former Rove aide Sara Taylor, who cited President Bush's executive privilege in refusing to answer some questions. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers is facing contempt of Congress charges authorized by the House Judiciary Committee after refusing to appear when it subpoenaed her earlier this month.
In his letter to Rove, Leahy outlined the evidence of White House involvement in the US Attorney scandal. E-mails obtained by the Judiciary Committee show Rove was interested in sacking US Attorneys as early as 2005 and that he raised political considerations in advancing the dismissal of New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias, Leahy says.
The letter also contends that Rove tried to encourage the Justice Department to pursue voter fraud cases in the run-up to elections. Such cases are against Justice Department policy because they can influence election results by disenfranchising voters.
"The evidence of untoward White House interference with federal law enforcement threatens our elections and has seriously undercut the American people’s confidence in the independence and evenhandedness of law enforcement," Leahy wrote.