House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has subpoenaed former presidential advisor Karl Rove to testify twice on his role in the Bush administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice. Now, if Mr. Rove’s message on the Fox TV show The O’Reilly Factor is to be believed, he plans to once again ignore Congress by failing to appear and testify under oath.
Last year in response to his first subpoena, Rove claimed that Congress cannot compel a former presidential adviser to testify. In a letter from then White House Counsel Fred Fielding, the Bush White House called this “absolute immunity.”
That sounds ominously like that famous Nixon quote “when the president does something, it is not illegal.” Rove should probably see Frost/Nixon, so he is reminded how badly this approach usually ends.
One of the fastest ways to restore a meaningful check on executive authority is for Congress and the President to speak with one voice and compel Rove’s testimony.
A recent New York Times editorial, “A New Subpoena for Karl Rove,” is right when it notes, “Americans deserves a full accounting.”
As the hiring scandals of 2007-2008 revealed (and Mr. Rove oversaw), the Department of Justice has become overly politicized in the past eight years. Politics has been allowed to trump fidelity to the law.
The newly confirmed attorney general should create a blue-ribbon commission to study and make recommendations on remedying the politicization of the Department of Justice under the Bush administration. The commission should report on its recommendations within 90 days.