[JURIST] Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] issued subpoenas for White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy Director of Political Affairs J. Scott Jennings Thursday in the ongoing probe of the US Attorney firings scandal [JURIST news archive], ordering Rove and Jennings to provide documents and testify [subpoena materials] before the Senate Judiciary Committee no later than August 2. Announcing the subpoenas, Leahy said:
We have now reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States Attorneys last year. Testimony and documents show that the list was compiled based on input from the highest political ranks in the White House, including Mr. Rove and Mr. Jennings. The evidence shows that senior officials were apparently focused on the political impact of federal prosecutions and whether federal prosecutors were doing enough to bring partisan voter fraud and corruption cases. It is obvious that the reasons given for these firings were contrived as part of a cover up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort.Rove and Jennings are unlikely to abide by the subpoenas, as the the White House has invoked executive privilege [JURIST report] and indicated that it will not allow [JURIST report] the Department of Justice to pursue any contempt of Congress charges [backgrounder; 2 USC Sec. 192] brought against White House officials in connection to the firings probe. Leahy addressed this Thursday, saying:
With our service of these subpoenas, I hope that the White House takes this opportunity to reconsider its blanket claim of executive privilege, especially in light of the testimony that President was not involved in the dismissals of these U.S. Attorneys. I hope that the White House steps back from this constitutional crisis of its own making so that we can begin to repair the damage done by its untoward interference with federal law enforcement. That interference has threatened our elections and seriously undercut the American people's confidence in the independence and evenhandedness of law enforcement. Mr. Rove and the White House must not be allowed to continue manipulating our justice system to pursue a partisan political agenda. Apparently, this White House would rather precipitate an unnecessary constitutional confrontation than do what every other Administration has done and find and accommodation with the Congress. If there are any cooler or wiser heads at the White House, I urge them to reconsider the course they have chosen.Meanwhile Thursday, the White House defended Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] against allegations that Gonzales may have committed perjury before Congress during Tuesday's testimony concerning the 2004 reauthorization [JURIST reports] of the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that Gonzales was speaking "consistently" [briefing transcript] and continues to have the support of President Bush.
There is a cloud over this White House and a gathering storm. I hope they will reconsider their course and end their cover up so that we can move forward together to repair the damage done to the Department of Justice and the American people's trust and confidence in federal law enforcement.
Snow declined to elaborate when pressed for details of how the contradicting accounts can be reconciled, but added that "I think at some point this is going to be something where members are going to have to go behind closed doors and have a fuller discussion of the issues." Congressional leaders have repeatedly rejected [JURIST report] the Bush administration's offer to provide unrecorded testimony with no oath behind closed doors. AP has more.