July 11, 2008

Jurist on the Siegelman prosecution and Rove + Wecht

Rove defies subpoena to testify on DOJ Siegelman prosecution
Mike Rosen-Molina at 3:39 PM ET

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[JURIST] Former White House advisor Karl Rove [official profile] Wednesday refused to testify before a scheduled Thursday hearing of the US House Judiciary Committee [official website; hearing materials] in defiance of a subpoena. In May, the committee subpoenaed [CNN report] Rove to testify concerning any involvement in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman [official profile; JURIST news archive] on federal corruption charges in 2005. Rove Wednesday sent a letter [PDF text] to committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich) [official website] indicating that he is exerting executive privilege and would therefore not comply with the subpoena. Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) Thursday rejected [ruling, PDF; press release] Rove's privilege claims:
The courts have made clear that Executive Privilege applies only to discussions involving the President and to communications from or to presidential advisers "in the course of preparing advice for the President." But the White House has maintained that the President never received any advice on, and was not himself involved in, the US Attorney firings and related events.

The presidential communications privilege simply does not come into play here at all.

For all the foregoing reasons, as stated more fully in my written ruling, I hereby rule that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, and his refusal to comply with the subpoena and appear at this hearing to answer questions cannot be properly justified.

These reasons are without prejudice to one another and to any other defects that may, after further examination, be found to exist in the asserted claims.
Conyers and Sanchez sent a reply [PDF text] to Rove Thursday, warning that the committee would pursue "alternative recourse" if he still refused to testify. Bloomberg has more. AP has additional coverage.

The committee's examination of Siegelman's case is part of a larger investigation into what it alleges is a pattern of politically-influenced selective prosecutions by the DOJ. In an April report [PDF text], the committee highlighted a number of cases it says were brought as a result of political pressures, including those against former Allegheny County coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht and former Wisconsin procurement official Georgia Thompson. The report also said the DOJ has refused to cooperate with its investigation. In April, the committee asked [letter, PDF] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to turn over all DOJ documents and case materials pertaining to the matters.

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