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White House political director Karl Rove refused to appear at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday to discuss the firings of nine U.S. attorneys, and his deputy appeared but refused to answer questions about the matter, at the direction of the White House.

J. Scott Jennings, consulting frequently with his attorney and a White House lawyer, refused to answer more than a dozen questions about his role in the firings and refused to discuss even e-mail messages that the Justice Department already had released. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the White House privilege claim is “bogus” and said the committee would have to decide how to respond to Jennings’ “selective” application of the privilege.

Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he hoped the committee could wrap up its investigation quickly to speed the departure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Specter said he does not believe that Gonzales perjured himself at his past appearance before the committee, but he was a “wily witness” who was attempting to mislead the committee.

— Paul Singer

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