Raw Story : US Senate subpoenas Rove in prosecutor row

Friday, July 27, 2007

US Senate subpoenas Rove in prosecutor row

AFP | July 26, 2007

A US Senate committee on Thursday slapped a subpoena on President George W. Bush's top political advisor Karl Rove, ratcheting up a legal showdown with the White House over fired prosecutors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also issued a subpoena against Scott Jennings, deputy White House political director, requiring testimony and documents for a probe into the affair.

The move came a day after a House of Representatives committee issued contempt of Congress citations against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former legal counsel Harriet Miers after they refused to testify.

Bush had evoked the doctrine of "executive privilege" to prevent them appearing before Congress in a probe about the sackings of nine federal prosecutors, who Bush critics claim were fired for political reasons.

"It is obvious that the reasons given for the firings of these prosecutors were contrived as part of a cover-up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort," said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy.

"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.

"There is a cloud over this White House and a gathering storm."

The White House did not say whether Rove would comply with the subpoena but a spokesman slammed the move as another sign that legislators in the Democratic-majority Congress were "out of control."

"Every day this Congress gets a little more out of control -- a new call for a special prosecutor, a new investigation launched, a new subpoena issued, an unprecedented contempt vote, and an old score somehow settled," said deputy press secretary Tony Fratto.

"It's unfortunate that this Congress continues to neglect the issues important to Americans, and Americans are taking note," said Fratto, adding that Leahy "could have accepted our offer of accommodation, but it's clear that he's more interested in headlines."

The White House and the Justice Department have denied any political motives for sacking the prosecutors.

Earlier, Leahy warned that he would request a perjury inquiry into embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, amid accusations that his sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee this week contradicted an account from a top intelligence official.

After the hearing, lawmakers pointed to documents that seemed at odds with Gonzales' account of a White House meeting in March 2004 with lawmakers.

According to a letter from the former director of US intelligence, John Negroponte, the White House meeting was a briefing on a controversial domestic spying program involving warrantless surveillance, the Washington Post and other papers reported.

But Gonzales has maintained the purpose of the meeting was to address "intelligence activities" that were under legal dispute and has denied the session focused on the warrantless wiretapping program.

Bolten and Miers refused to comply with subpoenas filed by the committee to testify about the affair, after Bush invoked executive privilege.

If the full House, as expected, also endorses the citations, Bush's right to apply the doctrine of executive privilege -- under which the president can refuse to produce certain documents and testimony to Congress -- could land in the courts.