07.31.08

Leahy Presses Rove, Bolten To Testify After Court Rules Against Immunity For White House Officials

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday pressed for testimony from former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in connection with subpoenas issued by the Committee in June 2007 and July 2007.  A ruling today by District Court Judge John Bates rejected President Bush’s claim that senior White House officials are not required to comply with congressional subpoenas.

On Thursday, Leahy sent letters to Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, and White House CounselFred Fielding, instructing them to advise the Committee by August 7 when Rove and Botlen would appear to provide documents and testimony related to the mass firing of U.S. Attorneys.  Leahy also sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking when the Department would withdraw memoranda and opinions justifying the White House’s non-compliance with the subpoenas. 

“I will be sending letters to Karl Rove’s lawyer and the White House counsel to schedule Mr. Rove and Mr. Bolten’s long overdue appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Leahy said in a statement on the Senate floor Thursday.  “The White House’s response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas has been to assert blanket claims of executive privilege and novel claims of absolute immunity to block current and former officials from complying.  Based on these claims, neither Mr. Rove nor Mr. Bolten even appeared before the Committee to respond to the subpoenas.  Now, a court has said that they must.”

The Judiciary Committee last year authorized Leahy to issue subpoenas to Rove and Bolten.  Both failed to comply with the subpoenas, citing a presidential claim of executive privilege.  The White House has argued that presidential advisors are immune from subpoenas issued by Congress.  In November, Leahy ruled the White House’s claims of executive privilege and immunity to be invalid, paving the way for the Judiciary Committee to report contempt citations for Rove and Bolten in December.

“The effects of the White House’s assertions of privilege and immunity have been unmistakable — amounting to the withholding of critical evidence related to the congressional investigation,” Leahy continued.  “And all along they have contended that their blanket claim of privilege cannot be tested but must be accepted by the Congress as the last word.  Today’s ruling from Judge Bates is a resounding rejection of this White House attempt to thwart accountability and a reaffirmation of Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and the right of the American people to learn the truth about their government.”

The ruling comes in a case filed by the House Judiciary Committee, which has been conducting a parallel investigation of the hiring and firing practices at the Department of Justice.  In June 2007, the House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for Bolten and then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.  The House adopted resolutions of contempt in February, and filed its case in the D.C. District Court March 10, 2008.

The full text of Leahy’s prepared remarks follow.  The text of Leahy’s letters to LuskinFielding, and Mukasey follow.  PDFs are also available online.

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Letter to Robert D. Luskin, Attorney to Karl Rove

Letter to Fred Fielding, Counsel to the President

Letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey

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