Rove’s role in purge scandal

ROVE’S ROLE IN PURGE SCANDAL…. For quite a while now, Karl Rove has insisted that when it came to firing federal prosecutors for partisan political reasons, he was merely a “conduit,” passing along information between White House lawyers, the Justice Department, and GOP officials.

Rove’s claims have always been dubious, and in light of new revelations, they’re practically impossible to believe.

Thousands of pages of internal e-mail and once-secret Congressional testimony showed Tuesday that Karl Rove and other senior aides in the Bush White House played an earlier and more active role than was previously known in the 2006 firings of a number of United States attorneys.

Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.

But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.

Of particular interest was David Iglesias’ firing in New Mexico. Republicans were anxious to see trumped up voter fraud charges brought against Democrats, in order to help GOP candidates. Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney, saw no evidence of wrongdoing, and wasn’t prepared to abuse his power simply to help a partisan political agenda.

In June 2005, Rove’s top aide sent an email arguing that Iglesias should be fired because Republicans in New Mexico “are really angry over his lack of action on voter fraud stuff.” Rove’s aide said, “Iglesias has done nothing. We are getting killed out there.”

In closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators, Harriet Miers, a White House counsel under Mr. Bush, recalled getting a telephone call from a “very agitated” Mr. Rove in the fall of 2006, making clear to her that he wanted action taken against Mr. Iglesias.

“It was clear to me that he felt like he has a serious problem and that he wanted something done about it,” Ms. Miers said, recalling the call from Mr. Rove. “He was just upset. I remember his being upset.”

That sure doesn’t sound like a conduit for information.

Yesterday’s revelations came by way of the House Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating the scandal. Its chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), said in a statement, “Honest and well-performing U.S. attorneys were fired for petty patronage, political horse-trading and, in the most egregious case of political abuse of the U.S. attorney corps — that of U.S. Attorney Iglesias — because he refused to use his office to help Republicans win elections.”

Also note, the release of these documents do not necessarily represent the end of the matter. Nora Dannehy, another federal prosecutor, is still overseeing an investigation of the U.S. Attorney purge scandal, which is reviewing, among other things, questions of whether Bush administration officials made false statements to investigators and/or obstructed justice. According to some reports, Alberto Gonzales’ remarks have drawn particular scrutiny.