Obama seeks delay in deciding on Rove subpoena

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 16, 2009 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is asking for two more weeks to weigh in on whether former Bush White House officials must testify before Congress about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The request comes after an attorney for former Bush political adviser Karl Rove asked the White House to referee his clash with the House of Representatives over Bush's claim of executive privilege in the matter.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., has issued a subpoena requiring Rove to appear next Monday to testify about the firings and other allegations that the Bush White House let politics interfere with the operations of the Justice Department.

Michael Hertz, the acting assistant attorney general, said in a court brief released Monday that negotiations were ongoing.

"The inauguration of a new president has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation," Hertz wrote in the brief dated Friday. "At the same time, there is now an additional interested party — the former president — whose views should be considered."

Members of the committee have been seeking the testimony of Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers since the spring of 2007.

Last July, a federal judge in Washington agreed with the House that Miers didn't have the right to ignore a subpoena from Congress. District Judge John D. Bates' 93-page ruling was considered a significant setback for the administration, which had asserted a broad executive-privilege claim that would have protected Miers from appearing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later delayed the effect of the ruling until after the November elections.

Since then, Rove's attorney has indicated that his client would be willing to testify about his role in the prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on bribery charges. Democrats want Rove to testify about the matter because they suspect that he instigated the prosecution.

However, Democrats also insist that Rove should be made to testify about the firings of the nine U.S. attorneys.

Meanwhile, a special prosecutor is investigating what role White House officials had in the firings and whether their involvement constituted a crime.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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