Agreement Sets Stage For Rove Testimony On US Attorney Firings

The House Judiciary committee just announced an agreement that it says will secure Karl Rove’s testimony about the US Attorney firings.

The committee says in a press release that it has forged a deal with the Bush White House which will see Rove and Harriet Miers conduct transcribed interviews before the committee, under penalty of perjury, on the subject of what they know the about the White House’s role in the firings. If the committee wants to follow up by with public testimony by requiring public testimony, it has reserved the right to do so.

By the terms of the agreement, Rove and Miers’ ability to invoke executive privilege — a privilege that President Bush has been claiming exists in perpetuity even after a president leaves office — will be “significantly limited”, though the announcement does not indicate the nature of those limitations.

The interviews won’t technically be under oath. But since the criminal penalties for lying to Congressional investigators are the same whether or not the interview is conducted under oath, that’s not seen as a major hurdle in getting to the truth.

In addition:

The Committee will also receive Bush White House documents relevant to this inquiry. Under the agreement, the landmark ruling by Judge John Bates rejecting key Bush White House claims of executive immunity and privilege will be preserved. If the agreement is breached, the Committee can resume the litigation.

And:

[I] the Committee uncovers information necessitating his testimony, the Committee will also have the right to depose William Kelley, a former White House lawyer who played a role in the U.S. Attorney firings.

Committee chair John Conyers called the agreement a victory:

I have long said that I would see this matter through to the end and am encouraged that we have finally broken through the Bush Administration’s claims of absolute immunity. This is a victory for the separation of powers and congressional oversight. It is also a vindication of the search for truth. I am determined to have it known whether U.S. Attorneys in the Department of Justice were fired for political reasons, and if so, by whom.

Today was the deadline a court had set for the Obama administration to file a brief in the Miers-Bolten case, indicating whether or not it supports the Bush White House’s claim of executive privilege. White House counsel Greg Craig has reportedly been working with the Judiciary committee and with former Bush White House officials to forge a deal.

Late Update: It’s worth noting that TPMDC’s Matt Cooper pointed to something like this outcome in a post from January…

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