Things are going to get interesting

WASHINGTON, March 18 — The Democratic senator leading the inquiry into the dismissal of federal prosecutors insisted today that Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush must testify publicly and under oath, setting up a confrontation between Congress and the White House, which has said it is unlikely to agree to such a demand.

Some Republicans have suggested that Mr. Rove, as well as Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, and William Kelley, the deputy White House counsel, testify privately, if only to tamp down the political uproar.

But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seemed to rule out such a move today, saying that his committee would vote Thursday to issue subpoenas in the inquiry, which centers on whether the White House allowed politics to interfere with law enforcement.

“I do not believe in this, ‘we’ll have a private briefing for you where we’ll tell you everything,’ and they don’t,” Mr. Leahy said on the ABC News program “This Week.” adding: “I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this.”

Lawmakers of both parties agree that the fate of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales may rest on what happens this week, as the White House and Congress either come to blows — or finds a compromise — over the testimony lawmakers are demanding. With Mr. Bush out of town at Camp David, the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, spent the weekend in Washington weighing whether to allow Mr. Rove and the others to talk and, if so, under what conditions.