[JURIST] White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove [official profile] refused to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday during the committee's seventh hearing [witness list] on the Justice Department's firing of US Attorneys [JURIST news archive]. Following President Bush's orders that White House staff not appear [White House letter, PDF], Rove skipped the hearing altogether. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed disappointment [statement] at Rove's absence, saying that Rove "refuses to tell this Committee the truth about his role in targeting well-respected U.S. Attorneys for firing and in seeking to cover up his role and that of his staff in the scandal." Deputy Director of Political Affairs J. Scott Jennings did appear, but stated he was merely there out of respect for the Committee and to avoid a contempt of Congress citation. During Leahy's opening statement [text], the senator thanked Jennings for appearing and said:
His appearance here today contrasts with the failure to appear by Karl Rove, who was also served with subpoenas to produce documents and testify today. Mr. Jennings' appearance shows that the White House's newly minted claim of "immunity" for White House employees is a sham. It is also a shame that this White House continues to act as if it is above the law. That is wrong. The subpoenas authorized by this Committee in connection with its investigation into the mass firings of U.S. Attorneys and the corrosion of federal law enforcement by White House political influence deserve respect and compliance.Leahy's committee issued subpoenas [JURIST report] for Rove and Jennings last week ordering the two aides to provide documents and testimony [subpoena materials] by August 2.
It was expected that Rove and Jennings would not 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. AP has more.