March 5, 2009 / 12:37 AM / 11 years ago

Rove, Miers to testify before U.S. House panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Bush administration officials Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will testify before a congressional panel investigating the firings of nine federal prosecutors under a long-sought accord announced Wednesday.

Then White House advisor Karl Rove hugs then President George W. Bush after Rove publicly announced his resignation on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, August 13, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said Rove, who was Bush’s top political adviser, and Miers, who was his White House counsel, would provide transcribed testimony behind closed doors, and that the panel would reserve the right to have them testify in public.

In addition, the committee said in a statement that under the agreement it reached with the former president and his administration, it will receive Bush White House documents relevant to the 2006 dismissal of the U.S. attorneys and that any claims of executive privilege would be “significantly limited.”

The accord follows a federal court ruling last year that rejected Bush administration claims that it was shielded from having to provide testimony or documents by such privilege.

Alberto Gonzales resigned under pressure as U.S. attorney general because of a furor over the firings of the federal prosecutors. Gonzales denied any wrongdoing and rejected claims that they were fired for political reasons. But he admitted that the matter was mishandled.

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Democrat whose probe of the firings had been hindered by an uncooperative Bush administration, hailed the accord.

“I have long said that I would see this matter through to the end and am encouraged that we have finally broken through the Bush administration’s claims of absolute immunity,” Conyers said in a statement.

“This is a victory for the separation of powers and congressional oversight,” Conyers said. “It is also a vindication of the search for truth.”

“I am determined to have it known whether U.S. attorneys in the Department of Justice were fired for political reasons, and if so, by whom,” Conyers said.

No immediate date was set for testimony by Rove or Miers, a congressional aide said.

President Barack Obama’s White House counsel, Greg Craig, hailed the agreement.

“The president is pleased that the parties have agreed to resolve this matter amicably and that they have committed to work in good faith to bring about a timely and final resolution of this matter, which is in the interest of the American people,” Craig said.

Robert Luskin, Rove’s lawyer, said his client “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, “Within these constraints, we have worked hard to find constructive ways to address the committee’s concerns and are pleased that the committee and President Bush were able to resolve their differences.”

Rob Saliterman, a Bush spokesman, said, “At the urging of the Obama Administration, and in consideration of the executive branch interests at stake, we have reached an accommodation ... that satisfies the committee’s desire for additional information and will finally put this matter to rest.”

Additional reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Anthony Boadle

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