The news that Karl Rove has finally testified before lawyers for the House Judiciary committee about his role in the US Attorney firings and the prosecution of Don Siegelman represents, in one sense, the culmination of years-long battle. That fight has pitted Congress, determined to get to the bottom of the firings, against the Bush White House, which has dragged its feet at virtually every stage. And yet, the path from here to a full public accounting of what happened remains unclear at best.
Rove’s deposition put a cap on a protracted legal standoff between the committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and the Bush White House. Conyers, investigating the late 2006 firing of nine US Attorneys, had first subpoenaed Rove in 2007. Citing executive privilege, the White House refused to let Rove testify. That eventually prompted Congress to hold Rove in contempt, and ultimately to file a lawsuit seeking to compel Rove to testify. A district court ruled in Congress’s favor last year, but the White House appealed that ruling, and Rove continued to be a no-show at several committee hearings to which he had been called to testify. Eventually, in March, lawyers for President Bush reached an agreement with the committee, securing Rove’s and Harriet Miers’ testimony. Even since then, though, it’s taken over four months to arrange for Rove’s sit-down. (Miers had hers last month.)
The White House’s foot-dragging may have inflicted some measure of political damage. But in terms of the legal repercussions, by coming to a deal while the case was still pending in an appeals court, the Bushies have largely succeeded in one of their goals: ensuring that no clear precedent has been established limiting the president’s power to claim executive privilege in such cases. And the Obama White House’s role in helping to secure the deal for Rove’s testimony suggests that’s an outcome they wanted too.
As for the underlying issue — the quest to learn what really happened in the firings and the Siegelman prosecution, things remain murky at best. There are conflicting reports about whether Rove will sit for another day of testimony. It’s also unclear when and how the committee will decide which parts of Rove’s testimony, if any, can be made public, and in what form the probe’s findings will be released.
A committee spokesman declined to comment to TPMmuckraker. And Robert Luskin, Rove’s lawyer, did not immediately return a call.
Siegelman, however, was happy to talk. The Democratic former governor of Alabama, who in 2006 was convicted on corruption charges in what many have labeled a politicized prosecution, told TPMmuckraker he doesn’t hold out much hope that Rove’s testimony yesterday will have revealed much about the GOP political guru’s alleged role in the case. “Karl Rove is one of those who can lie under oath and take a lie detector test and pass it,” said Siegelman.
But the ex-guv added that, based on conversations with Conyers and his staff, he feels confident that the investigation will help get to the truth. “I have looked [Conyers] in the eye, and he has had discussions with me that have convinced me completely that he is 100 percent committed to this investigation,” said Siegelman.