WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House political guru Karl Rove on Thursday to force his testimony about allegations that political meddling in the Justice Department led to selective prosecutions of southern Democrats. Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the committee chairman, issued the subpoena after weeks of icy correspondence with Rove's lawyer, who said that Rove would agree only to answer questions in writing or in an off-the-record session that is not transcribed.
Rove, a central figure in a controversy that led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, left his post last year just weeks after President Bush refused on grounds of executive privilege to allow him to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House committee wants to ask Rove about an array of allegations of political influence in the Justice Department, among them charges that former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz and others were selectively prosecuted.
Conyers' committee already has sued in federal court to compel presidential chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers to comply with subpoenas and provide information about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys — ousters that triggered the scandal.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that the committee already knows that Rove, who was subpoenaed last year by the Senate committee, is covered by the earlier executive privilege claim and cannot testify, though he has offered to assist the panel in other ways.
"They know he can't respond to those questions, but they want their political theatre," Fratto said. "We’ll review the subpoena, assess its relationship to currently pending matters and respond at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."