A Great Victory for the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and the Separation of Powers
March 4, 2009
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and the former Bush Administration have reached an agreement in which Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers will testify on matters related to the dismissal and retention of U.S. Attorneys. Rove and Miers will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in transcribed depositions under penalty of perjury, and the Committee reserves the right to have public testimony from Rove and Miers.
From the Judiciary Committee:
In an agreement reached today between the former Bush administration and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in transcribed depositions under penalty of perjury. The committee has also reserved the right to have public testimony from Rove and Miers. It was agreed that invocations of official privileges would be significantly limited.
In addition, if the committee uncovers information necessitating his testimony, the committee will also have the right to depose William Kelley, a former White House lawyer who played a role in the U.S. attorney firings.
The committee will also receive Bush White House documents relevant to this inquiry. Under the agreement, the landmark ruling by Judge John Bates rejecting key Bush White House claims of executive immunity and privilege will be preserved. If the agreement is breached, the committee can resume the litigation.
Chairman Conyers issued the following statement:
“I have long said that I would see this matter through to the end and am encouraged that we have finally broken through the Bush administration's claims of absolute immunity. This is a victory for the separation of powers and congressional oversight. It is also a vindication of the search for truth. I am determined to have it known whether U.S. attorneys in the Department of Justice were fired for political reasons, and if so, by whom.”
The agreement for Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify upholds a fundamental principle: no one is above the law and Congressional subpoenas must be complied with.
As public officials, we take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. It is the institutional duty of Congress — as an independent branch — to ensure against abuse of power through meaningful oversight over the Executive Branch. When there are credible allegations about the politicization of law enforcement, the need for Congressional oversight is at its greatest.
In upholding our oaths of office, the House of Representatives was determined to preserve checks and balances — the separation of powers that protects the rule of law. It brought action in court to enforce the Judiciary Committee's subpoenas, and won a major ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissing the extreme position of absolute immunity from Congressional oversight advocated by the Bush Administration for former Administration officials. Under this agreement, the precedent established by Judge Bates' historic ruling rejecting this extreme Bush Administration doctrine will be preserved.
Today's agreement is a great victory for the Constitution, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. I appreciate the strong leadership of Chairman John Conyers and the assistance of the Obama Administration.
Congress now has the opportunity to uncover the truth and determine whether improper criteria were used by the Bush Administration to dismiss and retain U.S. Attorneys.