By Paul Kane
Washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, March 12, 2007 7:10 PM
Congressional committees are now demanding the testimony of President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, in the burgeoning investigation into the reasons behind the unusual firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has helped lead the Senate Judiciary Committee's examination of the dismissals of the federal prosecutors, cited new reports connecting Rove to those who wanted to oust at least one of the U.S. attorneys.
"There's an emerging pattern that is extremely disturbing and everyday the sanctity of U.S. Attorneys as neutral enforcers of law without fear or favor is diminished," Schumer said. "We will get to bottom of this."
The House Judiciary Committee is also requesting testimony from Rove as well, but it's unclear whether either of the panels will actually subpoena his appearance before the committees. Unlike Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose agency is directly overseen by the judiciary panels and can easily be compelled to testify in Congress because of the large sway they hold over his agency, Rove has no Capitol Hill committee with direct oversight of his work.
Rove allegedly spoke with the chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party in late 2005 about the performance of then-U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias, with the local official urging his ouster because of the pace of investigations into local Democrats.
Iglesias was fired on Dec. 7, along with six other prosecutors that day, and has since alleged that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) pressured him regarding the same corruption probe as the local GOP official.
Domenici and Wilson have denied the charges, and the Senate Ethics Committee is examining the incident to measure the appropriateness of Domenici's phone call to Iglesias.
Last week, after a closed-door meeting in the Capitol with Schumer and other Judiciary Democrats, Gonzales agreed to allow five of his top aides to be interviewed by committee staff. The interviews will most likely be in private, and Schumer said last week he hopes to wrap them up within two weeks.
Now Schumer wants Rove added to the list along with those five staffers, who will be interviewed without facing subpoenas.
In addition, the House Judiciary Committee has also requested the testimony of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, the onetime Supreme Court nominee whose office had a hand in at least approving of the prosecutor firings.