Ball In Obama’s Court On Rove’s US Attorney Testimony

On the question of whether we’ll get to the bottom of the Bush White House’s role in the US Attorney firings, it’s starting to look more and more like the ball is squarely in President Obama’s court.

Yesterday, as we noted, House Judiciary chair John Conyers issued a subpoena to Karl Rove, ordering him to testify about the affair February 2nd and declaring ominously: “It’s time for him to talk.”

(Rove, making a claim to executive privilege backed by President Bush, had defied a subpoena issued by the last Congress. That Congress ended before the full House could vote on contempt charges against Rove.)

And just now, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told TPMmuckraker that he had already forwarded Conyers’ subpoena to the Obama White House, asking them to give an opinion as to whether President Bush retains his ability to assert executive privilege.

In other words, the Obama White House will decide, essentially, whether to back Rove’s claim of privilege, or to deny it. (And given that Rove is supposed to appear February 2, that decision from the White House should come soon.) In the latter case, said Luskin, a negotiation would ensue between the Obama White House, President Bush, and Rove. That would likely result in the matter going to court.

That’s not the only strand of the effort to uncover information about the firings on which Obama will likely have a major say. Conyers is also seeking testimony on the matter from former White House officials Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, who, like Rove, are relying on Bush to claim executive privilege. That case is in court, and the Obama White House is scheduled to file an appeal brief February 18th. That brief may make clear whether it backs the privilege claim for Miers and Bolten, and could help determine the case.

Obama’s executive order on presidential records, issued last week, suggests that his White House believes that former presidents do not retain their right to assert executive privilege. But that doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing that Obama won’t uphold Rove’s claim, and/or Miers and Bolten’s. Either way, we should soon find out.

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