Now that the morning papers have taken a shot interpreting the email released late yesterday, let's take another look.
Shortly after the email's release, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters that the email does not show that the idea of firing certain or all U.S. attorneys began with Karl Rove. And, admittedly, the email backs her up. Of course, it certainly doesn't show that Rove didn't come up with the scheme, either.
The January 9th, 2005 email (subject line: "Re: Question from Karl Rove"), in which Justice Department official Kyle Sampson brainstorms on what to do about the U.S. attorneys, begins with "Judge and I discussed briefly a couple of weeks ago." He then goes on to say, âAs an operational matter we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys â underperforming ones," the "we" there being Sampson and Alberto Gonzales (who is called "Judge" because he was once a a Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas).
That puts Sampson and Gonzales discussing the idea way back in December, 2004. (A DoJ spokesperson said in a statement yesterday that Gonzales "has no recollection" of that discussion.)
Perino stuck to the line yesterday that the whole idea of firings all 93 U.S. attorneys started with White House counsel Harriet Miers. Perino says that "Karl Rove has a recollection of hearing it from Harriet, and thinking it was a bad idea. There is nothing in this e-mail that changes that.... [It] does not contradict nor is it inconsistent with what we have said."
Now, Miers didn't even take over as White House counsel until early February, 2005. But Perino said that in the months between her being named to the spot (November, 2004) and actually starting work, "she would have been thinking about transition issues." But Perino admits that it's "not clear when the idea first originates, but the bottom line is, the idea is never pursued."
But let's step back here for a moment.
Whether the idea of firing all the sitting U.S. attorneys was originally Miers' or Rove's brainchild or not is mostly a red herring at this point. Whatever the original seed of the purge, it clearly became an opportunity for the administration to push out federal prosecutors who were not "loyal Bushies." That's the idea that really matters. And Rove was involved in that effort from its first steps.