Talks Could Clear Way for Congressional Testimony by Rove

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 14, 2009

White House lawyers and representatives for former president George W. Bush are engaged in discussions that could clear a path for congressional testimony by onetime Bush aide Karl Rove, three sources familiar with the talks said yesterday.

Word of the negotiations came on the same day that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) issued Rove a fresh subpoena regarding his role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, allegedly for political reasons.

Rove has deflected congressional demands for information about the dismissals by citing executive privilege and instructions from Bush. But Democrats say President Obama's view of the matter may open the door for Rove's eventual appearance on Capitol Hill.

"I believe that continued defiance of the subpoena is even less tenable in light of the fact that Mr. Rove is now the former adviser to a former president," Conyers wrote yesterday in a letter to Rove's attorney, Robert D. Luskin.

Luskin replied that he and Rove are awaiting advice from White House counsel Gregory B. Craig about whether Obama would back the executive privilege assertion by his predecessor.

"The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig said in a statement yesterday. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle."

A clue about the next phase of the dispute will emerge next week, when the Justice Department is scheduled to file legal briefs in a federal court case in the District. The House of Representatives has sued for information about the prosecutor firings from former Bush White House counsel Harriet E. Miers and former chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten.

The issue is heating up even as a criminal investigation into the firings accelerates. Nora R. Dannehy -- a career prosecutor from Connecticut named to examine whether laws on false statements, obstruction of justice or other matters were violated surrounding the dismissals -- began to interview key witnesses Thursday.

Weeks earlier, a federal grand jury in the District issued subpoenas in the case to several people, including former senator Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). Authorities are seeking information from Domenici about any possible role he played in the firing of former New Mexico prosecutor David C. Iglesias.

Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, criticized Democrats yesterday, saying their "continued persecution of former Bush administration officials is a waste of taxpayers' time and money."

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