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Is Rove Wriggling Away Again?

Yesterday's announcement that former Bush White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers will answer questions from congressional investigators about the U.S. attorney scandal puts an end to the absurd proposition advanced by the previous administration that senior advisers to the president have blanket immunity from any congressional oversight whatsoever, and if subpoenaed don't even need to show up.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the interviews will be held behind closed doors -- and the transcripts will only be released on a delayed basis. That's bad in part because the public now won't see Rove and Miers sweating under the hot lights. But the more significant problem is that journalists, bloggers and the greater public won't be able to immediately pore over their responses in detail.

Rove, in particular, is the reigning champion when it comes to giving the superficial impression of answering a question while in fact dodging, weaving and spinning to the point of misdirection. If a transcript is not immediately available, the public will have to rely on second-hand accounts that could be profoundly misleading.

As I wrote back in May 2008, what Rove fears most is being forced to answer a direct question in public, especially under oath. And I wrote about the importance of a transcript back in March 2007, when this particular episode began -- and when the Bush White House offered Rove up as long as there was no transcript at all.

According to the agreement brokered by the Obama White House, no transcripts will be made public until "after the completion of the last interview and after counsel has had a reasonable opportunity to review them for accuracy. No document or part of any document and no description or partial description of any document shall be disclosed to any other person until after the completion of the last interview."

Wayne Slater, who covered Rove back when he was a political operative in Texas, blogs for the Dallas Morning News: "Rove appears on camera almost every day on FoxNews. So why not Congress...

"Truth is, Rove has a history as a fiesty, effective interviewee. Some years ago in Texas, when he was working for the tobacco industry, he underwent a memorable deposition by trial lawyers -- and gave as good as he got, firing back, denouncing his inquisitors. And he has proved he can answer questions without answering them. Rove aggressively denied every charge leveled by a Texas Senate Committee asking about political dirty tricks -- even though there was evidence against him. And when Kay Bailey Hutchison was indicted (later acquitted) on charges of politicizing her office in 1993, Rove rode to the rescue with testimony that was effective, if not exactly true." (Update: Reader Brad Thomson writes in with a link to the tobacco deposition.)

Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "Attorneys for former president George W. Bush, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Obama administration reached agreement yesterday to resolve a long-running dispute over the scope of executive power, a move that will allow lawmakers to question Bush aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers about their roles in the firing of nine federal prosecutors in 2006.

"The pact follows weeks of negotiations led by White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, who wanted to avert a federal court showdown that could have restricted the authority of the president in future disputes with other branches of government.

"Under the terms of the deal, former presidential adviser Rove and former White House lawyer Miers will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in transcribed interviews, under penalty of perjury, but without cameras, reporters or members of the public in attendance. The transcripts eventually will be published, the agreement said.

"The settlement gives the Judiciary Committee access to long-sought internal documents prepared by the Bush White House and the Justice Department from December 2004 through March 2007 about the politically explosive firing of the nine prosecutors. Lawmakers also reserved the right to ask the onetime Bush aides to testify in public and made clear that Congress could revive its lawsuit in a federal court in the District if former administration officials stray from the agreement....

"Lawmakers will not ask Rove or Miers about privileged conversations they had with members of the Bush White House legal team, and they will not be able to see 'four pages of particularly sensitive privileged material' to be described by a Bush representative, the agreement said."

Bill Sammon writes for Fox News: "Although he says it could turn into a 'show trial,' Karl Rove tells FOX News he is looking forward to telling the House Judiciary Committee about his alleged role in the firing of federal prosecutors and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman...

"'Some Democrats would love to have me barbecued.'"

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 5, 2009; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Handling the Truth
Next: Obama Won't Take No for an Answer


What's notable here: Rove is still being cut a special deal that you or I wouldn't get under any circumstances. This is how royalty is treated in a monarchy. It's shameful that this Nation should have come to this point.

Posted by: jpk1 | March 5, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Barbeque Rove? Heck no, way too much fatback.

Posted by: Patriot3 | March 5, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be surprised if Rove an Miers came out of the hearing wearing Medals of Freedom. Our Congress is pathetic. Maybe if we take away their free healh care they would stiffen up some.

Posted by: davidbn27 | March 5, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I can't help but think that without cameras to preen for, congressional investigators might spend more time asking questions designed to get to the bottom of what happened as opposed to questions that play well on TV

Posted by: foxn | March 5, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Yoo Appears to View Himself as a Decider Not a Writer of Opinions or Offerer of Advice

Re Orange County Register interview:

In his interview, Yoo refers repeatedly (8 times by my count) to his "decisions". (See below.) He never refers to "opinions" he wrote. And he refers to "advice" only once; this was in a statement, which in general terms responded to a question as to whether there was anything he would have done differently, where he said: "These memos I wrote were not for public consumption. They lack a certain polish, I think – would have been better to explain government policy rather than try to give unvarnished, straight-talk legal advice."

In speaking of his decisions, Yoo said:

"When I was in the government, I did not have a problem with people writing columns criticizing our decisions.... The thing I am really struck with is that when you are in the government, you have very little time to make very important decisions. ... You really have decisions to make, which you could spend years on. ... when you're in the government, at the time you make the decision, you don't have that kind of luxury. ... There are tradeoffs inherent in every question.

"Someone can say, 'I think it's more important that other countries have a more favorable opinion of us than any intelligence we gain from interrogation.' That's a benefit and a cost.That's the cost … we will get less information about the enemy. ... you have very little time to make very important decisions. You don't have the luxury to research every single thing and that's accelerated in war time. You really have decisions to make, which you could spend years on. .. I don't think I would have made the basic decisions differently. .... You have to make these kinds of decisions in an unprecedented kind of war with legal questions we've never had to think about before. ... I'm not trying to escape responsibility for my decisions. I have to wait and see what they say."

And so Yoo created in his OCR interview the inference that he viewed himself as a decision maker, not the provider of analyses and legal advice called for which he was paid.

Can it be that Yoo is agreeing (albeit inadvertently) with his critics that his memos, under the guise of analysis, were in reality long-winded sophistry written to support decisions that had already been made?

Posted by: myers131 | March 5, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I do not know what the reasons are for this arrangement, but I do not think it was the right decision. Rove should have been required to testify under oath and the proceedings should be open to the public.

Posted by: kevin1231 | March 5, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Rove doesn't wriggle... He slithers.

Posted by: ruinedbruin | March 6, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Rove has been very skilled at making bold, illogical statements that leave a rational observer stunned. It's almost as though Rove has a reality distortion field, but in reality, it's his unbridled hubris and deceit that leaves a knowledgeable observer speechless.

I appreciate the vagueness of fulfillment of the deposition transcript release. I've you've ever participated in a deposition, it's accurate to request that counsel has the opportunity to proofread and correct it.

However, I see the following loophole, "When is the LAST interview?" Rove had 5 bites at the apple for the Scooter Libby case. He can assert that there may be future interviews, for years to come.

And in closing, who would take even odds of Rove's attorney saying nothing before release of the transcript?

Posted by: boscobobb | March 6, 2009 2:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't see how anyone expects to get the truth from Karl Rove without waterboarding.

Or, for that matter, WITH waterboarding.

Posted by: Observer44 | March 6, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

White House Council Craig may have an ethical and Professional Conduct problem in authoring an agreement for Roves deposition/testimony. See:

Posted by: Bushy | March 6, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Karl Rove? Fry the scumbag!

Posted by: alzach | March 6, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Rove was the Rush in government. He should be tried and hanged.

Posted by: Deano6 | March 7, 2009 5:39 AM | Report abuse

This guy is a master at evading the law. If he wriggles free as he has done so many times before, there may never be any true accounting of illegal actions and attacks on our civil liberties undertaken during Bush's last 8 years. If we don't barbecue this hog, then we'll never have a truth and disclosure. That will be sad for precedent and our history.

Posted by: drum_sing | March 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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