Monday, August 17, 2009

Did Rove's Testimony Reveal a Felony?

The next time Karl Rove's doughy face appears on Fox News, you might want to allow this thought to enter your consciousness: "Is that man a felon, and if so, why is he getting time on a major network?"

Documents released last week by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee leave many unanswered questions. But one thing is clear: Rove's actions in the U.S. attorney firings give prosecutors solid grounds for considering a felony prosecution against him.

Will they actually move in that direction? Time will tell. But Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, says the evidence is compelling:

The 6,000 pages of evidence released recently by the House Judiciary Committee make plain that (Rove) orchestrated the firings, and that in so doing he was driven by partisan political concerns. They also eviscerate his claims to have played only a “minor role” as a “conduit.” The documents and testimony make clear that Rove expected U.S. attorneys to use their office for the benefit of the G.O.P.—by prosecuting Democrats, squelching investigations of Republicans, or bringing bogus voting fraud charges that would adversely affect Democrats—or they would lose their jobs. This conduct invites the prosecutors to consider whether Rove and others in the White House were seeking to “corruptly influence” criminal investigations—a felony. That call is up to Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor appointed by former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to study the matter.

Horton does not seem convinced that Dannehy will act in an aggressive fashion:

All indications now suggest that she has concluded that enough evidence exists to make out charges against some of the actors—though it is far from clear that she will seek indictments. After all, not all crimes are prosecuted, a fact that may provide Karl Rove a good deal of solace.

Horton indicates that a felony case could be made against Rove, without even considering his actions in the Don Siegelman prosecution. That topic also was covered in documents released last week. One central figure in the Siegelman drama, Alabama attorney and whistleblower Jill Simpson, says she has no intention of letting Rove get off the hook with his "I don't recall" and "not to my knowledge" answers.

Simpson knows what it is like to testify under oath about the Siegelman case. She did it before House Judiciary Committee lawyers in fall 2007. She says the committee needs to examine the telephone and e-mail records of key players, then come back at Rove with questions he can't squirm away from. Says Simpson:

I hope we have not run into a dead end where Congress does not really investigate anything else, and this is over. After all, when I came forward I promised to march to Washington and testify and tell the truth. I also promised to do all in my power to see that (other) witnesses had to testify. I helped get Mr. Rove to testify, and I don't intend on him being the last witness called.

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