Conyers still has a few questions for Rove

CONYERS STILL HAS A FEW QUESTIONS FOR ROVE…. Well, this ought to be interesting.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) issued a new subpoena yesterday to former Bush White House aide Karl Rove, months after Rove deflected an earlier effort to compel his testimony about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and other political disputes that swirled around the Justice Department.

Conyers’s committee subpoenaed Rove on May 22, calling on him to testify about his contacts with department officials in the Bush era. But Rove rebuffed the summons, saying he was barred from testifying because of executive privilege.

Yesterday’s subpoena may test the limits of that power for the first time since George W. Bush left office, legal experts said. Some Democratic lawyers have suggested that an executive order issued by President Obama last week governing presidential records could make it easier for citizens and lawmakers to gather information about Bush administration controversies.

“Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it,” Conyers said. “After two years of stonewalling, it’s time for him to talk.”

Rove relied on an executive-privilege claim to ignore the subpoena the last time — the matter is still pending in the courts — but Bush obviously isn’t president anymore. Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, argued that former presidents still retain executive privilege on matters relating to their time in office, but the current White House counsel may not agree. If so, Luskin assumes that “the matter will be resolved among the courts, the president and the former president.”

We don’t yet know how Obama’s legal team will respond, but it’s worth noting that the president has called the “absolute immunity” claims of the Bush administration “completely misguided.”

Conyers has called for Rove’s testimony on February 2, so this should move fairly quickly. Stay tuned.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.