Conyers Threatens Rove with Subpoena for Testimony on Siegelman

May 1, 2008 4:54 p.m.

It’s deja vu all over again.

House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) says that if Karl Rove won’t agree to testify before his committee about his involvement in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), then he’ll be forced to consider issuing a subpoena. You can read his letter to Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin below.

In response to Conyers’ initial request for Rove to testify, Luskin offered to have Rove speak to the committee behind closed doors, without a transcript and not under oath — the same offer administration lawyers made to Congress in the U.S. attorney firings investigation. And you know where that went: the House is currently suing to enforce those subpoenas after finding former White House counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress.

Rove was subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of that investigation and refused to show up to testify. That committee subsequently voted to find him in contempt, but the full Senate never voted on the citation.

May 1, 2008

Via Fax and U.S. Mail

Mr. Robert D. Luskin

Patton Boggs LLP

2550 M Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20037-1350

Dear Mr. Luskin:

We were very disappointed to receive your April 29 letter declining the invitation to Karl Rove to testify voluntarily before the House Judiciary Committee concerning the politicization of the Department of Justice, including allegations regarding the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. Particularly since your client has made a number of on-the-record comments on this subject to the media, and in light of your (now modified) statement that Mr. Rove would be willing to testify, we can see no justification for his refusal to speak on the record to the Committee. We urge you and your client to reconsider this refusal no later than May 12, or we will have no choice but to consider the use of compulsory process.

Mr. Rove has previously spoken to the media and on the record concerning both the Siegelman case and the firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006. Your letter, however, offers to make Mr. Rove available only for a non-transcribed staff interview, not under oath, and limited only to the Siegelman matter. This offer is completely unacceptable.

Initially, an interview conducted without a transcript and not under oath would frustrate a full and fair inquiry. An interview without a transcript is an invitation to confusion and will not permit us to obtain a straightforward and clear record, as several of us have explained in response to a similar offer by White House counsel Fred Fielding in the U.S. Attorney matter. As Republican former Congressman Mickey Edwards has written, “[n]o Congress, indeed no lawyer, would ever agree to such an outrageous” proposal. We simply do not understand why anyone who is prepared to tell the truth would object to an oath and a record of what is said. This is particularly true in this case, where Mr. Rove has already spoken on the record on this subject.

Indeed, your proposal is even more restrictive than Mr. Fielding’s offer, since you would explicitly exclude any questioning concerning the U.S. Attorney firings. As your own letter appears to recognize, the Siegelman and other selective prosecution matters and the U. S. Attorney firings are clearly related as part of the concerns our Committee has been investigating on the politicization of the Justice Department under this Administration. It would further impede our inquiry to seek artificially to separate these issues. We can see no reason why Mr. Rove would be willing to testify as to whether he put improper pressure on a federal prosecutor to bring a prosecution, but would not be willing to testify on whether he improperly sought to retaliate against federal prosecutors by having them fired.

Your letter also raises concerns about possible executive privilege claims with respect to Mr. Rove’s testimony. The proper way to address such concerns, however, is on a question-by-question basis as current Administration officials have done in testifying before the Committee, not by a blanket refusal to testify.

We hope you and your client will reconsider the decision not to testify on a voluntary basis. Please direct any questions and your response to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515(tel: 202-225-3951; fax: 202-225-7680).



John Conyers, Jr.



Linda T. Sánchez

Chair, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law


Artur Davis

Member, Committee on the Judiciary


Tammy Baldwin

Member, Committee on the Judiciary

cc: Hon. Lamar S. Smith

Hon. Chris Cannon

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: