Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rove's Fingerprints Are At The Scene of the Crime

Karl Rove was at the heart of plans to fire U.S. attorneys, according to an analysis of this week's report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Zachary Roth, of TPM Muckraker, says the report shows that the plan to dump U.S. attorneys originated at the Bush White House:

Still, a close examination of the report makes clear that, although on a day-to-day basis the plan was put into effect by mid-level DOJ political appointees -- enabled by a shocking lack of oversight from top department officials, principally former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- the impetus for the move came straight from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Many of the individual pieces of information have been previously reported, as DOJ provided emails and internal documents to Congress for its 2007 investigation. But the OIG report provides a far clearer sense of the longer-term trajectory of the plan, and the consistent interest in it from (Harriet) Miers and (Karl) Rove, than we've yet been offered.

How intimately was Rove involved? Consider this passage from Roth's piece:

In January 2005, (Kyle) Sampson received an email from a Miers deputy, which said: "Karl Rove stopped by "to ask ... 'how we planned to proceed regarding US Attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.' " [Quotation marks rendered as in the report]. A few days later, Sampson replied: "If Karl [Rove] thinks there would be political will to do it, then so do I."

The report makes it clear that Karl Rove was deeply interested in activities at the Justice Department. Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has said Rove's interest went beyond the fired U.S. attorneys to actually ensuring that political prosecutions were carried out.

Is Siegelman on the right track? The OIG report does not provide conclusive evidence on that question. But it does provide important clues that indicate Siegelman is indeed on the right track.

There can no longer be any doubt that Rove was involved in Justice Department affairs. The report shows that certain U.S. attorneys were not favored. And it shows that certain U.S. attorneys--including Leura Canary and Alice Martin of Alabama, whose names were highlighted--were favored. Were they favored because they were willing to go after Don Siegelman with weak cases?

That is one of many questions that will be hanging in the air when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee meets tomorrow to discuss the OIG report.

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