While the details of Karl Rove's eight-hour deposition Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee regarding his role in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys and the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman remain unknown, Rove has provided insight into how he said he intended to answer the panel's questions in the Siegelman matter.
In March, during a little known interview on Fox News, where Rove is a contributor, Rove told Chris Wallace that he has already responded to questions about Siegelman's prosecution and has posted his answers to written questions on his website, Rove.com.
"My understanding is I am going to be questioned both about the U.S. attorneys [dismissals] and about the allegations that I was responsible for the prosecution of Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman...a lot of these answers particularly with regard to Siegelman are already on my website," Rove said in the March 8 interview.
Last December, Rove obtained a copy of an e-mail Siegelman had sent to his supporters who contributed to his legal defense fund. Rove blogged about it under a headline in which he portrayed himself as a victim: "Personal Responsibility: Who Needs It When You Can Blame Karl Rove?" (sixth item down from the top).
"Below is a fundraising letter sent out by Friends of Don Siegelman 2008. Despite that it has no basis in fact, I thought you might find it amusing. In case you're interested, visit these links for the facts," Rove wrote.
Rove then posted links to four documents on his website, one of which was his response to questions posed to him last July by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, who has been a vocal critic of the panel's chairman, John Conyers, attempts to force Rove to comply with numerous congressional subpoenas, which Rove subsequently defied on executive privilege grounds, about the firings of federal prosecutors and the prosecution of Siegelman.
Without informing Conyers or other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, Smith had sent a letter to Rove's longtime attorney, Robert Luskin, on July 15, 2008, a copy of which has not been previously released, in which Smith excoriated Conyers for not accepting an offer to have Rove respond to questions about the Siegelman prosecution in a private setting and not under oath, an offer made again earlier this year that Conyers rebuffed.
"The Committee's goal should not be the unnecessary persecution of witnesses with compulsory congressional process and needless contempt proceedings," Smith wrote. "Because written answers to written questions about the Siegelman matter would serve the Committee's proper objective, I am accepting by this letter your offer to provide those answers."
About a week later, during a committee hearing on the matter last year, while Conyers and other Democrats were considering whether to hold Rove in contempt, Smith announced that he obtained Rove's responses to lingering questions about his alleged role in Siegelman's prosecution. Smith then submitted the written question-and-answer exchange with Rove into the Congressional record.
In a July 22, 2008 letter accompanying Rove's response to Smith's questions, Rove's longtime attorney, Robert Luskin, wrote:
"As you know, Mr. Rove has never asserted any personal privileges in response to the Committee's subpoena, but remains obligated to follow the direction of the President. We simply cannot understand the Committee's interest in provoking a confrontation with Mr. Rove while the precise legal issue that is presented by his subpoena is subject to a pending action in District Court.
"We have struggled instead to find a method by which Mr. Rove could answer the Committee's questions while at the same time respecting the prerogatives of the President. We thank you for providing such an opportunity, and we trust that Mr. Rove's answers will assist the Committee in resolving these utterly unfounded allegations."
Claims that Rove never asserted "personal privileges" is a familiar line Luskin has used as recently as February, when Conyers subpoenaed Rove for the third time this year to try and compel him to testify about Siegelman's prosecution and the U.S. attorney firings. In March, Conyers's committee, with the help of White House Counsel Gregory Craig, brokered a deal that resulted in Rove agreeing to testify before the committee privately.
But Rove indicated during his Fox News interview that he doesn't intend to stray from the responses to questions he had already provided to Smith, which were clearly written to elicit denials from Rove about his involvement in Siegelman's prosecution.
In his written responses to Smith's 14 questions, Rove denied speaking to anyone "either directly or indirectly" at the Justice Department or to Alabama state officials about bringing corruption charges against Siegelman.