The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday asked former White House adviser Karl Rove to testify about claims that he influenced a federal corruption case against former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama.
The committee asked Rove to appear under oath as soon as possible. The panel also wants the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate allegations that political motivations drove the Siegelman case and several other federal prosecutions during the Bush administration.
Rove has denied any involvement in the Siegelman prosecution. His attorney told MSNBC earlier this month that Rove would be willing to testify on the matter.
In a lengthy report on possible "selective prosecution," the committee also cited cases against Pennsylvania coroner Cyril Wecht and Wisconsin state procurement official Georgia Thompson as ripe for review. A judge recently declared a mistrial in the Wecht case, and a conviction against Thompson was overturned last year.
Concern for the public trust
Criticizing new Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said evidence presented thus far threatens to undermine public faith in the judicial system.
"It is clear at a minimum that current and former department leadership has been derelict in failing to review these matters and reassure the American people that federal law enforcement is impartial and fair," Conyers and other lawmakers wrote in a letter to Justice. "Indeed, the department appears to have simply circled its wagons."
Siegelman, who was elected governor in 1998 and served one term, has always claimed that his prosecution was driven by Republican partisanship. His case got fresh attention last year when a former Republican lawyer and campaign volunteer said she overheard conversations suggesting that Rove was pushing Justice Department officials in Washington to go after Siegelman.
Rove, a consultant who was heavily involved in Alabama politics before directing President Bush's White House campaigns, has denied the allegations.
Rove reluctant to testify in similar scandal
Rove has fought congressional efforts to force his testimony in a related congressional investigation into whether Bush administration officials fired federal prosecutors who weren't loyal Republicans.
But responding to questions from MSNBC earlier this month, Rove attorney Robert Luskin said Rove would be willing to testify about Siegelman.
"Sure. Although it seems to me that the question is somewhat offensive. It assumes he has something to hide," the network reported Luskin saying.
Luskin could not be immediately reached Thursday afternoon.
A Judiciary spokesman said Conyers "reserves the right" to subpoena if Rove denies the request to appear voluntarily.