Exclusive: Rove not covered by executive privilege in political prosecution case, lawyer says
Lawyer: Rove won't take the Fifth if he testifiesRepresentatives of the Bush White House are no longer advising former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove that he is protected by executive privilege as regards testimony about the alleged political prosecution of an Alabama governor.
In an exchange with Raw Story, Rove’s Washington, D.C. attorney, Robert Luskin, also said Rove won’t invoke his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self-incrimination, if and when he testifies about the firing of nine US Attorneys and the prosecution of the former governor.
There's “been speculation that he would decline to answer questions on Fifth Amendment grounds,” Luskin said. “That's a personal privilege; he will not assert it.”
Asked if he had a comment on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) proposed “truth commission,” in which Bush officials would be offered immunity in exchange for testimony, Luskin said, “No.”
Last year, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Rove to testify about his knowledge concerning the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, which they alleged was carried out on political grounds after a whistleblower said Rove had a hand in seeking the prosecution. In 2007, Rove was subpoenaed by the Senate about the firing of nine US Attorneys.
Both times, the Bush Administration asserted that Rove was protected by executive privilege; both times, Rove did not appear. Now, with a newly-installed Democratic president, the ice under Rove appears to have thinned.
Rove was subpoenaed in January and again last week by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). He has been told to appear Feb. 23 for a congressional deposition.
Though it remains unclear what form Rove’s cooperation with Congress and Justice Department investigators – who continue to probe the US Attorney firings and the Siegelman case – might take, it seems increasingly likely that Rove will testify to Congress in some way. Luskin said last Thursday that no agreement had yet been reached with the committee.
Last year, Rove offered to speak in private to House Judiciary Committee investigators about the Siegelman case. He has said repeatedly that he had no involvement in the corruption prosecution mounted by a Bush-appointed US Attorney that critics say was motivated by politics. He refused, however, to testify under oath or in public, and the Committee balked.
Luskin says Rove’s previous stance was based on advice from the Bush White House but that Bush representatives are no longer advising him on the matter.
“The only basis that Rove has ever declined to appear has been the White House claim of immunity for senior advisors to the president and executive privilege,” Luskin said. “I do think that it's clearer now that the Siegelman matter falls outside the scope of the former claim and, on that basis, I offered to have Rove appear on this matter.”
“Previously, as to the Siegelman matter, the White House was involved in the discussions about what form Rove's cooperation might take, hence the discussions about interviews, not public testimony, et cetera,” he said in an earlier exchange. “Rove's most recent guidance from the White House did not express any limitations.”
Today, “I do not think there are any limitations on potential testimony about Siegelman,” Luskin added. “The circumstances – public testimony, deposition, under oath or not – would be up to the committee.”
That said, Luskin refused to commit his client to testifying publicly or under oath.
“My circumspection now about what form Rove's cooperation might take regarding Siegelman comes from a desire not to say anything publicly that might prejudice opportunities to reach a constructive resolution with the committee,” he said. “Rove is already on the record regarding the Siegelman allegations – they are wholly without merit – and he would obviously like to put this to rest.”
He added, “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.”
A House Judiciary Committee spokesman declined to comment. The Committee wrote in a letter to Luskin last week that they wouldn't accept testimony on Siegelman alone, saying that witnesses didn't get to dictate terms.
Siegelman was convicted in 2006 on bribery charges stemming from accusations that in 1999 former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy had donated to a political fund that was lobbying for Siegelman's lottery plan in exchange for being appointed to a key medical licensing board.
He was released on bail last April, after a series of investigations into allegations that his prosecution had been politically motivated. At that time, one Republican whistleblower named Rove as having had a hand in pushing for the prosecution.
The charges against Siegelman were brought by US Attorney Leura Canary, who had been appointed by President Bush in 2001. Her husband, Bill Canary, was a veteran GOP operative who worked in partnership with Rove on numerous Alabama campaigns in the 1990's, as well as for the Republican challenger who had defeated Siegelman in Alabama's 2002 gubernatorial race.