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Is John Conyers Getting Anywhere?

Current and former White House officials have used every weapon to avoid testifying before Congress or handing over documents. But Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been persistent in keeping the heat on. The next few days might determine whether his doggedness pays off.

The judiciary committee is holding a hearing Tuesday called "From the Dept. of Justice to Guantanamo Bay: Administration Lawyers and Administration Interrogation Rules." In a letter this week, the committee threatened to subpoena John Ashcroft, John Yoo and David Addington, who have refused invitations to testify. Ashcroft has said testifying might be really difficult, due to his busy schedule as a Washington lobbyist. But there might be some signs that Addington, the vice-president’s chief of staff, will show up, according to Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker.

Kiel reports on a letter from Kathryn L. Wheelberger, counsel to the vice president. Wheelberger writes that the committee request is "substantially narrower in scope" than previous demands about information regarding Justice-approved interrogation techniques. However, she also writes that since the judiciary committee is "not the Chief of Staff’s client," Addington cannot freely discuss the basis of his legal decisions. So it could be a situation where, a la Sara Taylor, Addington does testify but refuses to say anything revealing.

Meanwhile, the committee has threatened to subpoena Karl Rove if he won’t testify about fired U.S. Attorney’s and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Rove has so far only agreed to a "non-transcribed staff interview" that would promise not to include any questions about the attorney dismissals.

Conyer’s demands that the White House talk, including a separate civil lawsuit, could produce nothing. But it’s clear by now that instead of just bashing the administration’s secrecy, he’s serious about legally challenging its foundations.

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