What Karl Rove Fears Most

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, May 2, 2008; 1:18 PM

Former White House political guru Karl Rove may be the reigning champion when it comes to the Bush administration's practice of giving the superficial impression of answering a question, while in fact dodging, weaving and spinning to the point of misdirection.

When he's in situations where he knows his statements won't be challenged -- lectures, op-eds, appearances on Fox News -- the alleged master of political dirty tricks is happy to deny various accusations that have been made against him. On the subject of the possibly politically-motivated prosecution of a former Democratic official, for instance, he's been all over the media, vaguely denying involvement.

There is, however, one thing that Rove avoids at all cost: being forced to answer a direct question -- especially under oath. So it's not surprising that he refuses to do so before the Congressional committee investigating what actually happened to that Democratic official.

But things could be coming to a head.

Ben Evans writes for the Associated Press: "The House Judiciary Committee threatened Thursday to subpoena former White House adviser Karl Rove if he does not agree by May 12 to testify about former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's corruption case.

"In a letter to Rove's attorney, committee Democrats called it 'completely unacceptable' that the Republican political strategist has rejected the panel's request for sworn testimony even as he discusses the matter publicly through the media.

"'We can see no justification for his refusal to speak on the record to the committee,' the letter states. 'We urge you and your client to reconsider . . . or we will have no choice but to consider the use of compulsory process.'

"Committee Democrats are investigating whether Rove and Republican appointees at the Justice Department influenced Siegelman's prosecution to kill his chances for re-election. It is part of a broader inquiry into whether U.S. attorneys were fired for not aggressively pursuing cases against Democrats."

This, of course, is only the latest development in a long standoff between Bush and Congress over testimony from current and former White House staffers. See my Mar. 11 column, Playing Constitutional Chicken, and Tuesday's column, Cheney's Total Impunity.

Here's yesterday's announcement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers.

On April 7, MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams reported that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said Rove would agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case.

Ten days later, committee members invited Rove to appear, citing among other things Rove's interview with GQ magazine. In that interview, Rove hurled insults at CBS News for airing a 60 Minutes segment on the Siegelman case, called his chief accuser a "lunatic" -- but didn't specifically deny any of the accusations.

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