WASHINGTON - Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee Thursday threatened to subpoena former White House adviser Karl Rove to testify about former Gov. Don Siegelman's case unless he agrees to appear voluntarily by May 12.
Rove earlier this week offered to answer questions about the Alabama case privately and not under oath, but that offer was rejected as "completely unacceptable."
"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," the Democrats wrote to Rove's attorney Thursday.
The committee, led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has been investigating allegations that Siegelman's prosecution was orchestrated by politically motivated Republicans, and last month invited Rove to testify at what would be a second hearing on the subject.
It is the latest confrontation over whether President Bush's senior advisers are covered by executive privilege as part of the broader investigation into the firings of several U.S. attorneys. Democrats in Congress and the White House have been battling on that issue for months and litigation is pending in federal court.
But Rove, through his attorney, said he could address the Siegelman case separately from the U.S. attorney scandal and would agree to answer questions limited to that subject.
"We recognize the committee's legitimate interest in putting to rest the baseless and unsubstantiated charges that have been made by Governor Siegelman and others about his prosecution," wrote Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney. Luskin proposed that the interview with committee staff not be transcribed or under oath.
Democrats objected to those terms, saying Rove has already discussed the case publicly with reporters and that the Siegelman case is related to their overall concerns about the politicization of the Department of Justice under the Bush administration. They also said the limited questioning would "frustrate a full and fair inquiry."
Siegelman, who served nine months of his sentence and is now free on bond awaiting his appeal, has asserted for six years that he was unfairly targeted by Republicans. More specifically, the Democrat has argued that Rove considered him a political threat to Alabama Republicans and pressured federal prosecutors to pursue criminal charges.
Rove and the prosecutors have denied it, and Siegelman was convicted in 2006 by a federal jury in Montgomery on corruption-related charges.
The House Judiciary Committee has not announced a date for another hearing on Siegelman's case, or whether Siegelman himself would be called as a witness.
Conyers' letter was also signed by Reps. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham; Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
© 2008 The Birmingham News