Today on CNN’s Situation Room, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) blew off White House signals that Karl Rove and other senior Bush officials may resist testifying before Congress on the U.S. Attorney purge.
“Frankly, I don’t care whether [White House Counsel Fred Fielding] says he’s going to allow people or not. We’ll subpoena the people we want,” Leahy said. “If they want to defy the subpoena, then you get into a stonewall situation I suspect they don’t want to have.” Asked whether he’ll subpoena Rove, Leahy answered, “Yes. He can appear voluntarily if he wants. If he doesn’t, I will subpoena him.”
Leahy also addressed the right-wing talking point that the U.S. Attorney firings are meaningless because there “was no crime.” Leahy said that while President Bush has the authority to fire attorneys at will, “if it is done to stop an ongoing investigation, then you do get into the criminal area.” Regardless, he said, the administration’s politicization of attorneys “hurts law enforcement. That hurts fighting against crime.” Asked if he thinks any Bush officials may have committed perjury, Leahy said, “We’ll find that out.”
BLITZER: Do you think someone committed perjury?
LEAHY: We’ll find that out. That’s a — not always the easiest thing to prove. But we can certainly prove that we have not gotten complete answers. There’s a lot more. I think the American public deserves to have answers on this, instead of every day a little bit more dribbling out. Let’s get all the facts, but let’s have it under oath. It’s interesting, sometimes, when people are sworn in. It focuses their attention a little bit more.
BLITZER: The White House counsel, Fred Fielding, was up on the Hill today. I don’t know if you had a chance to meet with him. But he’s not necessarily ruling out allowing some White House staffers, maybe even Karl Rove to come and testify. Do you want Karl Rove to testify before your panel?
LEAHY: I’ve never met Mr. Fielding. Frankly, I don’t care whether he says he’s going to allow people or not. We’ll subpoena the people we want. If they want to defy the subpoena, then you get into a stonewall situation I suspect they don’t want to have.
BLITZER: Will you subpoena Karl Rove?
LEAHY: Yes. He can appear voluntarily if he wants. If he doesn’t, I will subpoena him. The attorney general said, Well, there are some staff people or lower level people — I’m not sure whether I want to allow them to testify or not. I said, Frankly, Mr. Attorney General, it’s not your decision. It’s mine and the committee’s. We will have subpoenas. I would hope that they wouldn’t try to stonewall subpoenas.
BLITZER: But is there anything illegal in putting one of Karl Rove’s associates in and making him the U.S. attorney in Arkansas?
LEAHY: There’s nothing illegal in a president firing — by itself, in firing a U.S. attorney. What it does say, however, to law enforcement, You either play by our political rules — by our political rules — not by law enforcement rules, but by our political rules, or you’re out of a job. What I am saying is that that hurts law enforcement. That hurts fighting against crime. And if it is done to be stop an ongoing investigation — this is something we don’t know — if it is done to stop an ongoing investigation, then you do get into the criminal area.