Karl Rove vs. Congress

Karl Rove thumbing his noseWhen it comes to the Bush Administration, nothing surprises me anymore. This gaggle of Neo-Cons have repeatedly showcased their belief that not only are they above the law, but that being in a position of power gives them the right to interpret U.S. laws, as well as the Constitution, in any way they see fit. Usually according to whatever political opportunities present themselves.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that former White House adviser Karl Rove today defied a Congressional subpoena to testify about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department, including whether Rove himself tried to influence the prosecution of Don Siegelman, a former Democratic governor of Alabama, on corruption charges in 2006. Democrats are investigating whether Rove encouraged the Justice Department to pursue the case. They also want to know whether Rove was involved in prosecutors’ decisions to pursue cases against other Democratic politicians or in the 2006 firing of nine U.S. attorneys because of their political affiliations. Lawmakers subpoenaed Rove in May in an effort to force him to talk.

Rove was not impressed. His attorney sent lawmakers a letter outlining the grounds for his refusal to appear on Capitol Hill.

“As I have indicated to you in each of my letters, Mr. Rove does not assert any personal privileges in response to the subpoena,” Robert Luskin writes in a letter posted on the committee’s website. “However, as a former Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, he remains obligated to assert privileges held by the President … Accordingly, Mr. Rove will respectfully decline to appear before the Subcommittee on July 10 on the grounds that Executive Privilege confers upon him immunity from process in response to a subpoena directed at this subject.”

In short, since Rove is President Bush’s buddy, he’s immune from any sort of accountability. He had been scheduled to appear at the hearing Thursday morning. A placard with his name sat in front of an empty chair at the witness table, with a handful of protesters sitting behind it calling for Rove to be arrested.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, chairman of the Commercial and Administrative Law subcommittee, the House subcommittee that called Rove, ruled that Rove’s claim of immunity was not valid. That ruling is possibly the first step toward holding Rove in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate. Her finding that Rove’s executive privilege claims weren’t proper was approved by a party-line 7-1 vote with all Democrats agreeing.

“I’m extremely disappointed and extremely concerned that Mr. Rove has decided to forgo this opportunity,” said Rep. Sanchez.

The panel is trying to determine whether partisan politics influenced the Justice Department’s decision to bring a corruption case against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The Justice Department’s ethics office also is probing whether Siegelman was the victim of selective prosecution.

Rove has rejected the notion of testifying before the subcommittee, and said he would speak with the committee only in private, not under oath and without a transcript. He also proposed answering questions only in writing. He apparently has little patience with piddlers such as the House of Representatives, who the Neo-Cons believe is subordinate to the will of the President. Rove feels secure that King George can keep him from going to prison. Even against a charge such as contempt of Congress.

Not surprisingly, the Republicans are crying foul. Republican Representative Chris Cannon of Utah called today’s hearing “a partisan stunt” and said Rove was out of town on a long-planned trip. Who would know a political stunt when they see one better than a Republican? Besides, if Karl Rove was out of town on a trip, what right did Congress have to expect him to comply with a congressional subpoena? It’s not like they have any authority or anything.

“There is no evidence supporting these allegations at all,” Cannon said.

Actually, there is. There’s enough evidence that the Justice Department is looking into the matter. Perhaps just this once Bush’s henchmen will be held accountable for shredding the constitution and, among many other things, attempting to turn the Justice Department into an ideological wing of the Republican Party. I have no doubt that Karl Rove will balk at any attempt to be held accountable by Congress. Too much is at stake. After all, if Karl Rove has to answer for inserting partisan Republican ideology into the Justice Department, isn’t it possible that others in the Bush Administration might have to answer for the efforts to politicize every branch and agency in the Federal government?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in an election year. Does President Bush, much less John McCain, really need an inquiry into this type of corruption? Do the Republicans really want Karl Rove to thumb his nose at Congress at a time when public perception of the Republican Party is mostly negative? Or is this, like so many other things through the years, part of yet another Karl Rove strategy aimed at somehow undermining the Democrats by trying to make them appear to be on some kind of partisan witch-hunt?

All I’ll say is that allegations that a Congressional subpoena is nothing more than “a partisan stunt” might hold water coming from certain other people. Coming from Karl Rove, the master of partisan political stunts, it mostly results in giggles.

I look forward to seeing Karl Rove, at long last, in handcuffs.

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Mike Licht
13 years ago
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