WASHINGTON — Former presidential advisor Karl Rove on Sunday brushed off suggestions that he attempted to influence a Justice Department investigation and prosecution of a popular former Democratic governor of Alabama.
Rove has been linked to the federal bribery case against former Gov. Don Siegelman through the sworn account of an Alabama lawyer who claims to have heard during a 2002 conference call with state Republican Party officials that Rove was attempting to intervene.
Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for a 2006 bribery conviction, but he was released in March to pursue an appeal after a court ruled that he had raised "substantial questions" about the corruption case.
Asked Sunday whether he had meddled, Rove told ABC's "This Week," "I found out about Don Siegelman's investigation and indictment by reading about it in the newspaper."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, May 27, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Karl Rove: In Section A on Monday, an article about Karl Rove said he brushed off suggestions that he attempted to influence a Justice Department investigation and prosecution of Don Siegelman, former Democratic governor of Alabama. The headline went further than the article by saying, "Rove says he didn't intervene in probe."
Pressed as to whether he was categorically denying involvement, Rove said, "I heard about it, read about it, learned about it for the first time by reading about it in the newspaper."
The Siegelman case has been a focal point of congressional Democrats who are pursuing questions about the Bush administration's alleged politicization of the Justice Department, including the removal of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Rove last week to answer questions about those dismissals, as well as about the Siegelman case, after negotiations for a voluntary appearance broke down.
Rove said his legal team had offered ways short of sworn testimony to provide information to the House committee. His lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, has said that Rove could discuss the case on the condition that his comments not be under oath and not be transcribed. Democrats have said that those ground rules are inadequate and would not lead to a straightforward record.
Invoking executive privilege, the administration has sought to block the testimony of President Bush's chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, and former White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers about their roles in the U.S. attorney firings.
The judiciary committee is seeking to enforce its subpoenas against Bolten and Miers in federal court. A hearing on whether the officials should be held in contempt is set for June 23.
"This is really about a constitutional question of separation of powers," Rove said Sunday. "Congress, the House Judiciary Committee, wants to be able to call presidential aides on its whim up to testify."
He added: "This is now tied up in court. It's going to be tied up in court and settled in court."