Rove, the former White House deputy chief of staff and top political advisor to President Bush, refused to appear today before a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee to testify on the "politicization" of the Justice Department under the current administration. Citing a claim of executive privilege by Bush, Rove did not show up for today's hearing despite a committee subpoena.
Conyers and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Commercial and Administrative Law subcommittee, rejected Rove's executive privilege claim as inadequate.
"Mr. Rove's absence today is an insult to the American people and to the system of checks and balances that are the basis of our constitution and our democracy," Conyers said in a statement.
"Mr. Rove is not above the law and Congress will assert its constitutional role to serve as a check on the power of the executive branch," Sanchez added.
The Judiciary Committee could approve both civil and criminal contempt resolutions against Rove, which would then go to the floor of the House for a final vote.
But the Judiciary Committee is already in a legal battle with the Bush administration over earlier subpoenas issued to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers. Although the House approved criminal-contempt resolutions against both, the Justice Dept., citing earlier legal opinions, refused to bring criminal charges against Bolten and Miers. The Judiciary Committee then filed a civil lawsuit against the White House to enforce the subpoenas. The case is now in federal court, and it is unclear if there will be an decision in the case prior to the start of the August recess.