Rove may be forced to testify as Obama's lawyers get involved
John Byrne
Published: Saturday February 14, 2009

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Bush proxies now negotiating with new administration

White House counsel Gregory Craig issued a statement late Friday encouraging former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove to cut a deal with Congress, an indication the new administration has begun to put pressure on President George W. Bush's former chief adviser.

"The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Obama's White House counsel Gregory Craig said in a statement yesterday to The Washington Post's Carrie Johnson. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."

Moreover, the Obama White House is now trying to work out an agreement with former Bush administration staff -- seemingly going over the head of the man some once dubbed "Bush's brain."

Craig's statement does, however, seem to suggest that Bush's former adviser will be granted some leeway as to the form of his deposition to Congress in lieu of President George W. Bush's claim that Rove is protected by executive privilege.

President Bush's former White House counsel Fred Fielding told Rove last month not to testify to Congress in a letter issued to Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin.

In the letter, Fielding told Rove that President George W. Bush would not allow Rove to testify about the firing of nine US Attorneys, a matter which has raised the hackles of Democrats, who contend the firings were political.

"Please advise Mr. Rove (i) that the President continues to direct him not to provide information (whether in the form of testimony or documents) to the Congress in this matter... and not to appear before Congress in this matter," then-White House Counsel Fielding wrote, citing "absolute" presidential immunity.

Rove himself recently told a California crowd that he would not honor a congressional subpoena.

The winds appear to be changing. Obama lawyers and Bush representatives are now "engaged in discussions that could clear a path for congressional testimony by onetime Bush aide Karl Rove, three sources familiar with the talks" told Johnson for Saturday's Post.

The negotiations surfaced on the same day House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) issued his third subpoena compelling to Rove to testify in less than two years. Seeing that Conyers is not backing down, Rove's attorney has hinted at a more conciliatory position, and Bush advisers seem to have all but conceded that they must allow Rove to testify in some form.

"Democrats say President Obama's view of the matter may open the door for Rove's eventual appearance on Capitol Hill," Johnson said.

After Bush blocked Rove and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers from testifying last year, Conyers sued the administration over its executive privilege claim.

Bush's Justice Department played defense, but lost the case in court. They subsequently appealed the decision and kept Rove from testifying during the interim. The case is now in the hands of Obama's Justice Department, which must file a briefing indicating their position by Feb. 18.

Rove's attorney Robert Luskin has offered his client's testimony regarding the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Siegelman's case is the focus of the second half of Conyers' subpoena.

But Conyers said he would not accept testimony about Siegelman without testimony about the US Attorneys.

"I do not believe it is acceptable for the Committee to allow witnesses to unilaterally determine what they can and cannot testify concerning," he wrote yesterday.

In an email exchange with Raw Story last week, Luskin hinted that Rove's cooperation with Congressional investigators was all but inevitable.

"We're continuing to engage in constructive discussions with the committee to that end, and I'd hesitate to speculate about what form Rove's cooperation might ultimately take," he said.