They're not going to lock up Rove, Former Bush aide insists
Rep. Sanchez: Rove should be "held accountable for his complete disregard of the law"
Karl Rove refused this week to testify before Congress about the politically-motivated prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee has now voted overwhelmingly to reject Rove's claim that as a former "close advisor to the president" he is "constitutionally immune" from having to testify.
MSNBC's Davis Shuster asked Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), chair of that subcommittee, what the Judiciary Committee will do next.
"The next step would be for the full committee to take up the contempt recommendation," Sanchez stated, "which I've been told by Chairman Conyers that he's anxious to do, and from there it would go to the full House." She added that she "would like to see Karl Rove held accountable for his complete disregard of the law."
In a letter sent to Rove's lawyer a week ago, Conyers and Sanchez threatened that "a refusal to appear in violation of the subpoena could subject Mr. Rove to contempt proceedings, including statutory contempt under federal law and proceedings under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives."
"There is a jail in the US Capitol," Shuster pointed out, "that hasn't been used for some time, but you are saying, and the committee, some of your colleagues are saying tonight, you want Karl Rove in that jail if he continues to refuse the demands of this committee. Is that what you're saying?"
Sanchez noted that "with some of the renovations that have gone on in the Capitol over the years, there really isn't an actual physical jail there," but she insisted that "anybody who scoffs at the law and has committed an offense that is punishable by jail time should be put in jail." She believes there is a "very great probability" that the full House will vote to hold Rove in contempt.
Shuster then asked legal professer Jonathan Turley, "Are the Democrats really serious, taking this all the way?"
"I think John Conyers could very well be serious," Turley replied. "The invocation of executive privilege by Rove in this matter really is ridiculous."
"I think the White House knows once again that it has overextended an executive privilege claim and that it would not be sustained in a court of law," Turley continued. "No court has ever said what the White House seems to be suggesting. ... It would be untenable. We would never be able to have any check on the White House."
Turley believes that the White House is simply "trying to run the clock out." When asked if Congress would go as far as trying to jail Rove, he answered, "I don't think we're going to get to that," but he felt there is a real possibility of a vote for inherent contempt.
"Congress gave up the authority of inherent contempt under an agreement with the Justice Department that it would be an honest broker, that it would take these cases to the grand jury," Turley explained. "What Attorney Mukasey is doing right now I think is far beyond bounds. He is refusing to let a grand jury see these cases. ... So I think at this point that Congress has a right to say, 'Deal's off.'"
Shuster then turned to two other guests for comment. Former Bush aide Brad Blakeman insisted that Rove is just following legal advice in refusing to testify and "the president's privilege trumps what Congress wants to do." He suggested that when there's a conflict between the executive and the legislative branches, "the remedy is to go to the courts."
The Huffington Post's Roy Sekoff replied that "Rove is thumbing his nose at the Constitution. ... They think that they are above the law. ... The Justice Department is refusing to take it to the grand jury."
However, Sekoff doubts that the House will actually try to put Rove in jail. "Nothing will happen," he stated pessimistically. "They'll refer it to the Justice Department ... and the clock will run out."
"It's a tremendous abuse of their power," Blakeman argued. "They know that, and it's exactly why they're not going to execute on the contempt. They're not going to lock Karl Rove up. ... They want Karl Rove as a political pawn before a major election to embarrass the president."
"In United States vs. Nixon, they found that executive privilege is not absolute," Sekoff retorted. "It applies to military and diplomatic situations, not to a thing where Karl Rove is trying to build a permanent majority with political trickery."
This video is from MSNBC's Verdict, broadcast July 10, 2008.