HAT TIP: MSNBC
WASHINGTON – A House panel on Wednesday approved subpoenas for President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove and other top White House aides, setting up a constitutional showdown over the firings of eight federal prosecutors.
By voice vote, the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law decided to compel the president’s top aides to testify publicly and under oath about their roles in the firings.
The White House has refused to budge in the controversy, standing by embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and insisting that the firings were appropriate. White House spokesman Tony Snow said that in offering aides to talk to the committees privately, Bush had sought to avoid the “media spectacle” that would result from public hearings with Rove and others at the witness table.
“The question they’ve got to ask themselves is, are you more interested in a political spectacle than getting the truth?” Snow said of the overture Tuesday that was relayed to Capitol Hill by White House counsel Fred Fielding.
Publicly, the White House held out hope there would be no impasse.
“If they issue subpoenas, yes, the offer is withdrawn,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow. “They will have rejected the offer.”
He added that the offer for interviews on the president’s terms — not under oath, on the record or in public — is final.
‘There must be accountability’
Democrats dismissed the overture, in large part because there would be no transcript.
“There must be accountability,” countered subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.
The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled a vote Thursday on its own set of subpoenas, with Democrats complaining that the threat of force is the only way to get a straight answer from the White House.
“The White House is in a bunker mentality — won’t listen, won’t change,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “I believe there is even more to come out, and I think it’s our duty to bring it out.”
The House subcommittee Wednesday approved, but has not issued, subpoenas for Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, their deputies and Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, who resigned over the uproar last week.