Federal Judge: White House Aides Have To Testify « The Washington Independent
In his continual subpoena of top Bush administration officials, it’s been uncertain whether Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is getting anywhere. Today, though, is an occasion for Conyers to celebrate– a federal judge ruled in favor of the House Judiciary Committee, saying Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Josh Bolten, the White House chief of staff must testify before the committee.
District Judge John Bates ruled in House Judiciary Committee v. Miers, et al. that White House officials are not "totally immune from ever having to respond to congressional testimony" when subpoenaed. Even when the president has asserted executive privilege– as George W. Bush has for Bolten and Miers– they must still appear before Congress and then, when appropriate, invoke executive privilege.
In addition to Miers and Bolten, the ruling directly affects Karl Rove, who the judiciary committee held in criminal contempt yesterday for not cooperating with a congressional subpoena to give public, oral testimony.
So does this mean Miers, Bolten and Rove must, under oath, discuss the politicization of the Justice Dept. and, in Rove’s case, prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman? Maybe. The White House could still appeal the decision and a ruling on the appeal might happen after Bush leaves office.
Also, if the officials do testify, it could be a replay of former Rove assistant Sara Taylor’s testimony last summer before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There, Taylor seemed to assert executive privilege anytime that committee members seemed to be getting anywhere with their questions.
Still, it’s a big victory for Conyers– and congressional oversight. It would be hard to imagine being able to police the White House if anyone important who worked there has blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas.