It is a curious process by which some questions of dubious import get pressed endlessly and others, which matter far more, are entirely ignored. I think we have one of these cases here. And if you’ll indulge me I’d like a moment to explain what I mean.
A lifelong Republican attorney from Alabama, Dana Jill Simpson, has come forward and sworn out an affidavit claiming that in 2002 a close associate of Karl Rove claimed that Rove had told him that he’d gotten the Department of Justice to investigate then-Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (D) and that he was sure the investigation would eventually take Siegelman out of politics. Is the claim true? Was Rove successfully using the DOJ to pursue politics by other means as far back as 2002?
The ‘denials’ from the other parties on the conference call have either been feeble, non-responsive or non-existent. And the charge is serious enough that you would certainly expect that if the claim could be roundly denied it would be roundly denied.
Then there’s the White House and the Department of Justice.
Had the last five months not happened, perhaps there’d be no reason for either to deny the charges. But we already have a rather detailed predicate — abundant evidence of inappropriate contacts between the White House political office and Main Justice.
A few journalists — included a TPM reporter — have put this question to the DOJ and the White House. Did Rove have any contacts with the DOJ about investigating Siegelman and did he tell William Canary that Siegelman would be “take[n] care of”?
But the White House refuses to answer the question. As does the Department of Justice.
In the context, I don’t think that’s acceptable.
Remember, an Alabama attorney who is a lifelong Republican and actually did opposition research for Siegelman’s 2002 opponent has signed an affidavit asserting that this is true. The other alleged witnesses won’t deny it. Perhaps she’s just lying or crazy or has bad memory. But she has a sufficient prima facie claim of credibility to warrant a denial if one can honestly be tendered.
Now, perhaps the issue here is that the Democrats in Washington won’t press the issue, and thus the press won’t either. And from a political standpoint their position may be understandable, even correct. Siegelman was eventually convicted. And he’s set to be sentenced later this month. From what I can tell there are real questions about the prosecution and the trial. But he may well be as guilty as sin. And because of that risk or fact they don’t want to touch this one.
But from a rule of law perspective of view it doesn’t matter. It can be both. Rove may have been playing games with the Justice Department, getting enemies investigated and Siegelman may also be guilty. It simply does not have to be one or the other.
Because of that, the question might not play politically. But we should want to know one way or another whether the allegations about Rove in this case are true.
So who’s going to press this question with the White House and the DOJ? TPM may not be able to get answer but the big papers can. So who is going to ask? Or does this one just get ignored?
My gut tells me this one gets asked. But when?
Late Update: Scott Horton has more on this at his Harpers blog.