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Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 19:07 UK

Rove skips congressional inquiry

A name-tag marking Karl Rove's empty seat at the congressional hearing
Despite his absence, Mr Rove's place was marked with a name-tag

Karl Rove, President Bush's ex-aide, has refused to attend a congressional hearing on allegations that he helped politicise the US Justice Department.

Mr Rove has been accused of attempting to influence the prosecution of a former Democratic governor of Alabama.

He is also said to have been involved in the firing of several US attorneys, allegedly for political reasons.

Lawmakers subpoenaed Mr Rove to attend the hearing, but he has refused, citing executive privilege.

The president and those who work for him are allowed by law to resist certain attempts by the judicial and legislative branches of government to force them to co-operate with inquiries - this right is known as "executive privilege".

But the House Judiciary sub-committee, which is conducting the investigation into the Justice Department and issued Mr Rove with a subpoena, has rejected Mr Rove's claim of immunity.

Despite Mr Rove's absence, the committee set up a chair for him, and marked his place with a name-tag.

Stunt

The committee could decide to seek Mr Rove's prosecution for contempt.

Two other officials - White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers - have already been held in contempt by the committee for failure to testify.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have dismissed the committee's actions as a stunt, and have called on its members to accept an offer made by Mr Rove to speak to them informally in private.

The committee rejected Mr Rove's offer, because they wanted his remarks to be made under oath.

The inquiry stems from the firing in 2006-07 of a number of US attorneys.

Critics say the attorneys were sacked for political reasons, and that the Department of Justice subsequently attempted to mislead the public about the reasons for the dismissals.

Karl Rove
Mr Rove claims that executive privilege allows him to skip the hearing

The committee's investigation has also been extended to cover the prosecution of former Democratic governor of Alabama Don Siegelman.

Siegelman was convicted last year of accepting and concealing a contribution to his campaign to start a state education lottery, in exchange for appointing a hospital executive to a regulatory board.

He was sentenced last year to more than seven years in prison but was released in March when an appeals court ruled that he had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in his appeal.

Siegelman has alleged that his prosecution was pushed by Republican officials, including Mr Rove.

A former Republican campaign volunteer told congressional attorneys last year that she had overheard discussions suggesting that Mr Rove had put pressure on officials from the Justice Department to prosecute Siegelman.

Departmental officials have disputed the claims, arguing that Siegelman was convicted by a jury, and that the case had been handled by career professionals, not political appointees.




SEE ALSO
Congress sues over US prosecutors
10 Mar 08 |  Americas
Bush aides in US firings subpoena
27 Jul 07 |  Americas
Bush aides face contempt charge
25 Jul 07 |  Americas
US firings row aide defies House
12 Jul 07 |  Americas
Q&A: Fired prosecutors row
27 Aug 07 |  Americas


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