Today was the deadline for a Judiciary Committee subpoena issued to Karl Rove, demanding his appearance before the Committee to testify on his role in the politicization of the Department of Justice and the politically selective prosecutions of Democrats. Unfortunately, Mr. Rove chose not to show up.
The claim that Mr. Rove and the White House make is that high-level aides to the president are totally immune from compelled congressional testimony. Not that there are certain subjects they cannot discuss in a public hearing, nor that the White House has a right to review questions that are asked, but that they are in a class entirely by themselves -- a separate group that is above the reach of a subpoena and, consequently, above the law.
Over the past 18 months, congressional inquiries have uncovered a level of politicization that runs the breadth of the administration and profoundly threatens one of the core elements of our democracy -- equal justice under law. We have seen it in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys for partisan political purposes, in the hiring practices at the Justice Department, and apparently in the politically selective prosecution of Democrats like Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Thorough investigation of these abuses of power requires that Congress get answers from the Executive Branch. By ignoring the Judiciary Committee subpoena, Karl Rove and the White House once again showed their utter disregard for our system of checks and balances, for Congress as a co-equal branch of government, and ultimately for the American people.
The question that now confronts the Judiciary Committee and, ultimately, the full House of Representatives, is what action to take in the face of such blatant defiance of the rule of law. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I am considering all options. Regardless of the path we take, the end result must be the same: the full restoration of our Constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no one -- not Karl Rove and not the president -- is above the law.