Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rove subpoenaed by House Judiciary--Again!

This is from The Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee chairman subpoenaed former White House adviser Karl Rove on Monday to testify about the Bush administration's firing of nine U.S. attorneys and its prosecution of a former Democratic governor.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said the ongoing legal battle to get Rove and other former Bush administration aides to testify may have success with a new president in the White House.

Former President George W. Bush upheld Rove and two other senior aides who asserted they did not have to testify before Congress about their actions in the White House.

The legal dispute between the executive and legislative branches of government is before a federal appeals court.

Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said his client was only following Bush's orders and never asserted a personal claim that he could disobey a congressional subpoena. Luskin added that if the Obama administration no longer asserts a legal claim against Rove testifying, "we will do our best to work it out with the new president."

"This is not Mr. Rove's dispute," Luskin said.

The subpoena commanded Rove to appear on Feb. 2 for a deposition on the U.S. attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.

Then there is this interesting Countdown story, where Keith Olbermann reports that Karl Rove has forwarded this subpoena to the Obama administration, requesting that President Barack Obama continues to assert former President George W. Bush's executive privilege on Rove in the continuing House investigation in the U.S. attorney scandal:

Now in the Countdown story, Olberman and his guest, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, speculate that President Obama may enforce the executive privilege to former President Bush for not having to testify before any congressional investigation, but leave Karl Rove out to dry. There is also some talk of a negotiation between Bush, Rove, and the Obama administration on how much executive privilege Rove will have in avoiding the congressional subpoena. And if Karl Rove is forced to testify in the attorney firings, you can bet that former Bush counsel Harriet Miers and former chief of staff Josh Bolten will be subpoenaed into testifying before Congress on these matters as well. So this is a last-ditch effort by Rove and the rest of the former Bush officials to not just avoid testifying before Congress in these scandals, but to conceal their own potential criminal involvement during the Bush administration.

Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer takes another look at the implications of the Rove subpoena on the Obama administration:

The new Democratic president may not have much sympathy for his predecessor’s expansive view of executive privilege. But while the incoming Obama administration may have a vested interest in facilitating a public airing of what really went down in the Bush Justice Department, getting Rove and the others up to the Hill isn’t a simple task. "Obama doesn't have the authority to just waive the privilege," explains Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor and a former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, noting that President Bush will continue to have a say in the matter, however diminished. "The privilege belongs to the president who asserts it," he says, meaning that Bush can continue to assert executive privilege in an attempt to prevent Rove and Miers from testifying.

The subpoenas will put Obama in an awkward position. While he may have opposed Bush's view of presidential power as a candidate, it's not hard to envision a time when Obama himself may see some advantages to shielding Rahm Emmanuel and other of his close advisers from the inquiring minds of Congress. Not only that, but he may fear that refusing to back President Bush could set an unhealthy precedent that he might not want to leave for his successor.

Mencimer reports that President Obama may have no choice but to continue to assert executive privilege on Rove because the executive privilege belongs to former President Bush and that Bush can continue to claim it, even when Bush is out of office. There is also the potentially sticky future situation where President Obama may have to assert the executive privilege to keep his own staff from testifying after Obama leaves the White House. In other words, the Rove subpoena has become a political CYA for future presidential administrations, and President Obama has to make a choice on whether to allow such a CYA, or not.

Talk about a sticky situation here.

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