Sen. Patrick Leahy yesterday issued subpoenas to Karl Rove and his helper, Scott Jennings, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee with what amounts to a prosecutor’s opening statement.
Whether or not the two Presidential aides take the stand, they will be tried as surrogates for the Bush-Cheney White House over the next months with the American public in the jury box.
Leahy, a former prosecutor, summed up the charges: “The veil of secrecy this Administration has pulled over the White House is unprecedented and damaging to the tradition of open government by and for the people that has been a hallmark of the Republic.”
Those who see the current Senate process as a counterpart of the 1970s Watergate hearings will find evidence in Leahy’s assertion, “Not since the darkest days of the Nixon Administration have we seen efforts to corrupt federal law enforcement for partisan political gain and such efforts to avoid accountability.”
Reviewing the case against Rove in the U.S. Attorney firings, Leahy claimed that “evidence points to his role and the role of those in his office in removing or trying to remove prosecutors not considered sufficiently loyal to Republican electoral prospects. Such manipulation shows corruption of federal law enforcement for partisan political purposes.”
To underscore Bush’s “stonewalling,” Leahy cited 74 instances of Presidential advisors testifying before Congress since World War II, adding that, during the Clinton years, White House aides were “routinely subpoenaed for documents or to appear before Congress.”
He broadened his case about the lawlessness of the current Administration by noting “political briefings at over 20 government agencies, including briefings attended by Justice Department officials” and the revelation this week that U.S. ambassadors were similarly drawn into domestic politics.
As Leahy launched the case against Bush and Cheney, the committee’s senior Republican, Arlen Specter, was hitching a ride on Air Force One and telling reporters that while he hoped “to reach an accommodation” with the White House on the subpoenas, “I don’t see it now.”
As in the time of Watergate, the American public will be listening and making up its mind about the innocence or guilt of its White House employees.