The public examination is expected to cover President George W. Bush and information he might have received about the firings.
The news follows last week's release of documents from Rove and Miers' non-public testimony before staff members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Those documents included Rove's testimony about the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama. It is unclear if the public testimony, expected to come this fall, will cover the Siegelman case.
Back in March, when House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers announced that he and his staff had reached an agreement to have Karl Rove and ex-White House Counsel Harriet Miers testify privately about their roles in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys he said his panel also reserved the right to haul the former Bush administration officials before Congress to testify publicly about the matter.
Conyers now intends to take advantage of that prearranged agreement and is expected to call Rove and Miers to testify before his panel sometime in the fall, according to several congressional sources that spoke on condition of anonymity.
Their appearance would mark the first time that senior Bush White House officials will testify publicly about a scandal that resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top Justice Department officials.
What might be at the heart of the public testimony? The firing of former New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias will be central. But the role of George W. Bush is expected to come up, as well. Reports Leopold:
These sources added that, in addition to covering old ground, the committee wants Rove and Miers to publicly testify about what Bush knew and when he knew it.
In his interview with the committee last month, Rove repeatedly avoided responding to direct questions about whether Bush was aware of the plan. But in interviews he gave to The Washington Post and The New York Times last month, which the newspapers agreed not to publish until Rove completed his second round of testimony last month, he said he believed Bush “had been informed of the decision to let the prosecutors go.”
In an interview with the Post, Rove also said he’s “sure” Bush was told about the firings in advance.
“Maybe Harriet [Miers] talked to him about it,” Rove said. “I’m sure they did walk in at the end and say, ‘Mr. President, we want to make a change here.’”
That revelation would contradict numerous public statements made by White House spokespersons Tony Snow and Dana Perino that Bush did not play a role nor was he involved in the decision to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys and that the decisions emanated from the Department of Justice.
Leopold reveals that committee members were underwhelmed with the forthrightness displayed by Rove and Miers in their private testimony:
In a little known 12-page fact sheet the committee released last week summarizing Rove and Miers’ testimony, the panel said Rove’s “memory appeared to be quite selective.”
Rove “did not remember basic facts such as how and when he learned that David Iglesias would be removed, whether or not he ever saw the list of US Attorneys proposed for removal, or whether he even knew which US Attorneys were on the removal list when he approved the plan,” the committee’s fact sheet states. “Similarly, Mr. Rove clearly remembered obscure details such as a conversation with a now-deceased political scientist from a University of Wisconsin subcampus about possible flaws in the Justice Department’s rejection of Wisconsin vote fraud complaints.
“But he did not recall much more basic facts about the matter such as whether there were specific US Attorneys that White House officials wanted to replace during the President’s second term, or what statements he made to [Alberto Gonzales's former chief of staff] Kyle Sampson and [the Justice Department’s White House liaison] Monica Goodling at a political briefing he lead just weeks before the final stage of the removal process was launched. While failure of recollection is always an issue in investigations, the extent of these witnesses’ failure to recall the basic facts about recent events is disturbing, and continues to obscure the full truth about the US Attorney removals.”
The committee said Miers “suffered from an extraordinary failure of recollection during her interview, stating more than 150 times that she did not recall the answer to questions about the US Attorney matter, including fundamental and memorable facts such as what she meant when she wrote that a ‘decision’ had been made to remove David Iglesias from his position in October 2005, or whether or not Karl Rove specifically asked that David Iglesias be removed when Mr. Rove called her, agitated, from New Mexico.”
What will Congress be after with the public testimony? Leopold reports:
In discussing the U.S. Attorney firings, lawmakers want Rove and Miers to publicly explain who was responsible for disclosing to them specific details about ongoing corruption investigations some of the fired prosecutors had been conducting, some of which involved powerful Republican lawmakers, which Democrats believe was then used to justify the firings, congressional sources said.