The House Judiciary Committee chairman is again demanding testimony from former White House aide Karl Rove on whether he politically interfered in U.S. attorney firings and the prosecution of a Democratic governor. Rep. John Conyers believes he'll now have White House support.
Conyers, D-Mich., subpoenaed Rove on Monday to appear at a deposition Feb. 2. Former President George W. Bush backed Rove and two other senior aides who asserted they were legally immune from testifying about their actions in the White House. Conyers said President Barack Obama sees it differently.
Mr. Bush's position of "absolute immunity" was "rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates and President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as 'completely misguided,"' Conyers said in a statement.
The immunity battle is now before a federal appeals court.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said his client was only following Bush's orders and never asserted a personal claim that he could disobey a congressional subpoena.
"This is not Mr. Rove's dispute," Luskin said.
Conyers said he will continue to pursue testimony from the former officials.
"I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an important step along the way," Conyers said.
"Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk."
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey named a special prosecutor in September to investigate whether former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, other Bush administration officials or Republicans in Congress should face criminal charges in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The inquiry followed the recommendation of internal Justice Department investigators who concluded that despite administration denials political considerations played a part in the firings of as many as four of the federal prosecutors. Conyers wants to know what role Rove played in the dismissals.
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has alleged his prosecution was pushed by Republicans, including Rove. The former governor was convicted on bribery and other charges and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. He was released early, when a federal appeals court ruled his appeal raised "substantial questions."
Last July Bates, the federal judge, rejected Bush's contention that senior White House advisers are immune from subpoenas, siding with Congress' power to investigate the executive branch.
Conyers also has sought testimony from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, and ex-White House chief of staff Josh Bolten although only Rove was named in the new subpoena.