Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy yesterday promised to subpoena the White House’s top political adviser and its former counsel in connection to the congressional investigation of the firing of several U.S. attorneys last year.
“On Thursday this week, among the subpoenas that will be voted on will be one for Karl Rove and one for Harriet Miers, another one for her deputy,” the Vermont Democrat said. Mr. Leahy said he intended to subpoena Mr. Rove because of e-mails released last week that critics think show Mr. Rove was involved in discussions of whether to fire some U.S. attorneys.
The White House and Justice Department have denied basing the decisions on politics. The attorneys customarily serve four-year terms but legally serve at the president’s discretion. President Clinton fired all 93 upon taking the White House in 1993.
“It’s amazing to me. This is what I’m talking about when I say a legitimate investigation can overreach,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a Judiciary member who opposes forcing Mr. Rove to testify before Congress. “Democrats think Karl Rove is lurking behind every bush in Washington.”
But Mr. Leahy said public testimony under oath is the only acceptable option now because he was “sick and tired” of private briefings from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other officials.
“I wouldn’t have done this if I’d gotten the story, the straight story, the first time. It changes every single time they give it,” he said.
“I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “I do not believe in this, ‘We’ll have a private briefing for you where we’ll tell you everything,’ and they don’t.”
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the panel’s top Republican, told “Fox News Sunday” that while he wasn’t certain about subpoenas, there was precedent for Mr. Rove and Miss Miers to testify openly and that they should do so.
“I want to see exactly what the White House response is,” Mr. Specter said. “Maybe the White House will come back and say, ‘We’ll permit them to be interviewed, and we’ll give them all the records.’ ”
Mr. Specter said he had spoken with White House Counsel Fred Fielding about the legal issues and separation-of-powers issues, and “I think we’ll know their position on Monday.”
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore declined to comment to reporters yesterday on whether Mr. Rove or Miss Miers would testify. She also said Mr. Fielding was taking more time on the legal matters, “given the importance of the issues under consideration and the presidential principles involved.”
Mr. Cornyn said he doesn’t think the firings were “for any inappropriate reason,” but said he also thought Mr. Gonzales did not handle the situation appropriately.
“I’ve told the attorney general that I think this has been mishandled, that by giving inaccurate information, by not giving complete information to Senator Leahy, to the Judiciary Committee on which I serve, at the outset, it’s caused a real firestorm, and he better get the facts out fast,” Mr. Cornyn said on ABC.
Meanwhile yesterday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who leads the subcommittee investing the firing of the U.S. attorneys, says he thinks it’s only a matter of time before Mr. Gonzales is forced to resign.
“I think it’s highly unlikely he survives. I wouldn’t be surprised if, a week from now, he’s no longer attorney general. He has just miscast his role, misperceived his role,” the New York Democrat said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”