Brief of the Week July 20, 2009

NOW WE KNOW WHAT SHOW TRIALS ARE: “They don’t know what show trials are,” remarked Tass White House correspondent Andrei Sitov two years ago, when Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters that a congressional probe of the Bush Administration’s firing of nine U.S. attorneys would turn into just that — a show trial — and that the Administration was citing executive privilege in refusing to allow White House staffers to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. Although Bush Administration officials admitted sloppiness in explaining the firings, the White House was on solid ground in replacing officials who serve at the pleasure of President and there is no evidence that any law was broken. But that is not enough for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D.-Mich.). Two years after Conyers’ panel first subpoenaed Karl Rove as part of the U.S. attorneys probe and was turned down, the former White House deputy chief of staff was deposed for more than eight hours last week by attorneys for the Judiciary Committee. Conyers would not comment on what Rove told the attorneys. The questioning of Rove comes one month after former White House Counsel Harriett Miers was also deposed by the Conyers committee. When the Bush White House refused to make the two aides to the President available in ’07 on executive privilege grounds, Conyers’ panel filed a lawsuit against the White House and won a favorable decision in U.S. District Court in ’08. The U.S. Court of Appeals has yet to review the case.