Former Bush Administration Officials Agree to Depositions

House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers announced today that the committee has reached an agreement with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers regarding subpoenas in the U.S. Attorney firing investigation. Conyers' press release is here.

According to The Hill, the Obama Administration played a big role in bringing about the agreement.

The Obama White House confirmed that “lawyers from the White House counsel’s office played an active role in moving the parties toward the accommodation,” while Bush’s office said it had reached the deal “at the urging of the Obama administration.”


What's in it for Obama?

Obama had every reason to bring the two parties to the table. Without a deal, he would have been in the awkward position of defending Rove’s executive privilege claim as a way to preserve the power of the executive branch and protect his aides from being forced to testify before Congress in the future.

Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, weighs in:

Rove looks forward to addressing the committee's concerns."

“Mr. Rove has consistently maintained that he would not assert any personal privileges to refuse to appear or testify, but was required to follow the direction of the president on matters of executive privilege,” Luskin said.

At issue:

Conyers is interested in knowing what role, if any, Rove played in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and the government’s prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on public corruption charges.

Luskin advised the committee on Jan. 26th that Bush was only asserting executive privilege on the U.S. Attorneys' firing and Rove was willing to testify about Siegelman.

A federal judge rejected Bush's executive privilege claim. Conyers is pleased the essence of the ruling is reflected in the agreement.

The New York Times gets some key facts wrong:

Under the agreement, Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers will provide depositions and sworn public testimony about the firings, but the scope of their testimony will be limited to the dismissals and closely related issues.

Moreover, the two former Bush officials will not be asked about their conversations with Mr. Bush on the subject or their discussions with other members of the White House counsel’s office.

However, Conyers' press release and CBS's report both state that public testimony may or may not follow the depositions.

And Newsweek says the depositions will be transcribed but not given under oath:

Then, after the documents are reviewed, Rove and Miers will be questioned in private by lawyers for the Judiciary Committee, with a transcript of the interviews made. But their testimony will not be given under oath and it will not be in public—at least not initially.

The judiciary panel will have the right to call the witnesses again later to testify in public if they wish, though this seems unlikely in the case of Miers; her former position as White House counsel will allow her to invoke some attorney-client privileges. House lawyers say the fact that the witnesses will not be testifying under oath is not particularly significant because they can still be criminally charged with making false statements to a congressional committee if it can be proved that they lied.

More significant than Rove and Miers' testimony is that the Bush White House is agreeing to turn over documents. Newsweek says:

The key to how far the matter goes almost certainly rests in the contents of the documents. A Justice Department inspector general's report last year found that there was potential evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the firing of at least some of the U.S. attorneys—especially David Iglesias, the chief prosecutor in New Mexico, who was dismissed allegedly after state Republicans complained to Rove that Iglesias wasn't moving aggressively enough to bring vote fraud prosecutions that would aid the party's electoral prospects in the state.

....an internal counsel chronology about the firings that was prepared by a White House lawyer. That memo will now be turned over to the House committee.

Also, e-mails will be turned over that Rove and his lawyer have not had access to. According to Newsweek:

Whether Rove will still be looking forward to testifying after those emails are turned over to congressional investigators is, at the moment, the biggest question mark hanging over the case.

Bottom line: As with most agreements, this one allows both sides to claim victory on some points.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I wouldn't call it a "deposition" (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 11:59:08 PM EST
    if the witness isn't under oath.  Interview maybe.

    No Need for Oath if Testimony is to Congress (none / 0) (#4)
    by freddyl on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 07:27:11 AM EST
    See 18 USC 1001 and note penalties same as lying under oath

    (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any
    matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or
    judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly
    and willfully -
    (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or
    device a material fact;
    (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
    statement or representation; or
    (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the
    same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
    statement or entry;

    shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years
    or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as
    defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or
    both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B,
    110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed
    under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
    (b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial
    proceeding, or that party's counsel, for statements,
    representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or
    counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.
    (c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the
    legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to -
    (1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a
    matter related to the procurement of property or services,
    personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a
    document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to
    the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative
    branch; or
    (2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the
    authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of
    the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or


    Appears to be a bit of wiggle room (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 10:49:47 AM EST
    in that language.

    Jill Simpson alleges Conflict of interest (none / 0) (#1)
    by fly on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:27:21 PM EST

    White House Counsel Greg Craig Asked to `Step Down'

    Jill Simpson Alleges Conflict of Interest by Obama's Attorney


    Here is the text of the letter written by Jill Simpson's lawyer to Craig, Obama's White House Counsel.  The conflicts are numerous and incredible - he should not be allowed to remain in his post.

    Hon. Greg Craig
    Office of the White House Counsel
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington D.C. 20500

    February 22, 2009

    RE: Your position regarding advising the President
    on the pending testimony of Karl Rove

    Dear Attorney Craig:

    I represent Dana Jill Simpson, an attorney in Rainsville, Alabama, who testified before Congress in September 2007, regarding Karl Rove's involvement in the U.S. Justice Department prosecution of Gov. Don Siegelman.

    She is very concerned that you have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6 , 1.7 and 1.10, while citing 1.9 to decline representation. She is equally concerned about the person or persons to whom you have divulged her confidential information. Your recent efforts on the part of negotiating a settlement between Congress and Karl Rove have been noted, as well as your efforts to delay matters before the D.C. Court of Appeals, regarding Rove and other Bush administration officers claiming executive privilege.

    For this reason, she is asking that you step down from your position as White House Counsel, at least in all matters dealing with the Bush administration. Further, she is asking that you furnish her with a list of each and every person with whom you have communicated regarding this matter; that is, Miss Simpson's affidavit, testimony, knowledge, research and any other matters touching or information furnished by Miss Simpson.

    In recapping the events linking you and Miss Simpson:

    1.) Upon information and belief, Gov. Don Siegelman or his agent made the direct call to you at your law firm, Williams & Connolly, soliciting your pro bono representation of Ms. Simpson, with regard to her affidavit about Karl Rove's involvement in Siegelman's prosecution.

    2.) According to Ms. Simpson, you called her up to four times on or about March 16-17, 2007, and you faxed her your resume.

    3.) She initially asked, "Before we really start this, do you have any contacts with George Bush, Karl Rove, Don Siegelman or Bob Riley?"

    4.) You indicated you did not and said, "Tell me who this is about."

    5.) Your initial conversation with Ms. Simpson lasted about 10 to 15 minutes.

    6.) In three conversations of nearly two hours, you extracted particular details of her involvement, and you asked her specifically about the length of time and character of her contact with Karl Rove, the extent of her work with the GOP and her knowledge of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller's owner-interest in Doss Aviation, a major federal contractor, and matters dealing with lobbyist G. Stewart Hall's then-Federalist Group and the steering of contracts to Fuller's company and companies related to Gov. Bob Riley's son, Rob Riley.

    7.) After this extensive questioning, which included another session for the questions you had formulated, you announced that you couldn't represent her because you had represented Sen. Richard Shelby during the 2004-2005 investigations of his alleged national security leaks.

    8.) Ms. Simpson says that you related to her that Sen. Shelby had told you " in confidence" that he "owned and controlled Doss Aviation out of the federal courthouse in Montgomery," and that Doss Aviation's, 1 Church Street, mail was delivered to Shelby's Senate office, even before Fuller was appointed judge. You told her that you "didn't really like" Shelby, that the Doss connection had not been discovered during the previous hearing, but that, "It will come up, if you really go into it."

    9.) You failed to mention to Miss Simpson, however, that you were a friend of Karl Rove, had shared drinks with Karl Rove, that your law firm, Williams & Connolly, was representing Vice President Cheney on Scooter Libby's role in the Valerie Plame case in which Rove was involved; that your firm has advised the White House not to turn over GOP emails regarding the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys. Nor did you disclose your firm's involvement in defending Iran-Contra figures, which you knew or should have known play a key role in the current military contracts routed to Doss Aviation.

    Now, I understand your firm is handling Karl Rove's book deal. Currently, your former close associate and mentor, Emmet Flood is representing former President Bush in executive privilege matters before the D.C. Court of Appeals with regard to political firings of U.S. Attorneys who failed to act on orders to prosecute Democrats prior to elections - matters in which you are directly involved in your role as President Obama's White House Counsel.

    You had a duty to disclose your relationship with Rove to Miss Simpson before she revealed the details of her involvement, because you knew from initial contacts that you had a conflict. You have a duty now to turn over any material relating to disclosure of that information as well as to allocute to whom you passed the knowledge. She also inquires whether you or anyone to you contacted is responsible for recommending legal services from Washington attorney David Laufman, also known as "Bush's Cleaner," or Montgomery Republican Tommy Gallion, who after months of intensive discussions with Ms. Simpson, indicated he was in regular contact with President Bush on her matter.

    Ms. Simpson asks that you withdraw from any representation of the President on these matters due to your conflicts and those of Williams & Connolly in this area. If you respect the legal Code of Professional Conduct, you must take action to remedy the damage you have done to Ms. Simpson, Mr. Shelby and the legal profession.

    We would appreciate an answer no later than three business days.

    Priscilla Black Duncan
    Attorney for Jill Simpson

    Seems implausible (none / 0) (#2)
    by Steve M on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 10:36:32 PM EST
    Hard to imagine that during conversations with a brand-new client, a high-powered lawyer just happens to let slip highly confidential conversations with a U.S. Senator he represented.  Maybe, but sounds fishy to me.

    since i posted this last night.. (none / 0) (#8)
    by fly on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 08:29:50 PM EST
    Emptywheel at Firedoglake has now posted it as well.

    See the link here:


    Can't help but notice (none / 0) (#5)
    by ruffian on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 09:07:18 AM EST
    Is Priscilla Black Duncan 'Atrios' in Bizarro World?

    Per Politico, Rove, Meirs do not have to answer ?s (none / 0) (#7)
    by jawbone on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 05:09:28 PM EST
    about Bush.

    Does that make sense?


    Is this a criminal defense site? (none / 0) (#9)
    by diogenes on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 08:32:01 PM EST
    Having roving bands of congressional persecutors set up perjury traps for people who have not been indicted for any actual crime vis-a-vis the firings is not exactly a promotion of liberty.
    If there was an alleged crime here, a grand jury should investigate.  If there is a conviction, then those findings of fact can go to Congress.  

    I sometimes wonder (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Steve M on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 09:22:48 PM EST
    where all you "perjury trap" people were when the Republican Congress was investigating stuff like the White House Christmas Card list.