WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Citing executive privilege, President George W. Bush on Wednesday rejected a subpoena for his close adviser Karl Rove to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a probe over fired federal prosecutors.
The committee had subpoenaed Rove to testify at a hearing on Thursday morning in its investigation of the firing last year of nine federal prosecutors, which critics said was prompted by partisan politics.
"Mr. Rove, as an immediate presidential advisor, is immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his tenure and that relate to his official duties in that capacity," White House Counsel Fred Fielding wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. Leahy made the letter available to Reuters.
Bush's move sets up a possible court showdown between the White House and Democratic lawmakers, who have also sought to force other Bush aides to testify and demanded documents it says the White House is not releasing.
Democrats say the firings may have been intended to influence investigations of Democratic or Republican lawmakers.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who signed off on the firings, also faces a possible perjury investigation over the truthfulness of his testimony to Congress.
Bush and Gonzales have said the dismissals were justified but mishandled. With the support of Bush, Gonzales has rejected bipartisan calls to resign.