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Another crucial detail from the documents just released: the White House is also complicit.

On February 22, Kyle Sampson wrote, "Because this letter mentions Rove and alludes to Harriet, I'd like to send it to [the White House Counsel's Office] today for their review, with an eye on getting it out tomorrow." The letter was sent the next day.

The mention of Rove, of course, was that he wasn't involved in the appointment of his former aide as U.S. attorney, something shown to be false by the Justice Department emails.

Reacting to the released documents, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:

“The plot continues to thicken. It seems the Justice Department rarely acted without the knowledge and approval of the White House. In effect, the White House was involved in denying its own involvement. This makes the need for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and others in the White House to testify under oath, with transcripts even greater.”

The Justice Department turned over yet more documents to Congress today -- documents which seem to show that Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson was responsible for misleading Congress about Karl Rove's role in replacing a U.S. attorney.

On February 23, acting Assistant Attorney General wrote Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other senators in response to questions about the appointment of Timothy Griffin, a former aide to Rove. In the letter, Hertling stated "The Department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin."

But emails subsequently released by the Justice Department showed that wasn't the case. Last December, for example, Sampson wrote in an email that Griffin's appointment was "important to Harriet, Karl, etc." Other emails showed that Rove's deputy had been intimately involved in the effort to get Griffin installed as the U.S. Attorney in Eastern Arkansas.

In a letter accompanying documents sent to Congress today, Hertling admits that the assertion in his letter isn't true, adding, "We sincerely regret any inaccuracy." And to answer questions about who was responsible for that inaccuracy, he accompanied his letter with 202 pages documents "reflecting the preparation and transmittal of the February 23 letter."

Among the documents is a February 8th email from Kyle Sampson providing what ultimately, with a few small revisions, comprised Hertling's letter. And in that email Sampson wrote that Hertling should say, "I am not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the Attorney General's decision to appoint Griffin."

Now, Hertling might not have known of Rove's role in Griffin's selection, but Sampson sure did.

You can bet that Sampson will be questioned about this during the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.

Update: Those documents are now online.

In a letter (pdf) to White House counsel Fred Fielding today, the chairmen from the House and Senate judiciary committees sought to renew negotiations over the testimony of Karl Rove and other White House officials.

"[W]e have not heard from you" since last week, the two write. They then lay out the terms for proceeding.

The White House's offer of testimony behind closed doors, with no transcript or oath is still a non-starter, they say. But there is something else "worth pursuing" in the meantime: the White House could hand over records of communications between White House officials and members of Congress, as Fielding has already offered. The White House has said that it willl not hand over "internal" emails, a stand to which Democrats object. But that shouldn't totally stop the flow of material, they say: "Recognizing we have a dispute over those documents should not delay the Committees receiving the other documents that you indicate you are willing to provide." So let's see those third party emails.

The chairmen close by telling Fielding that they want to see more than just correspondence from White House email addresses -- since people in the White House seem to frequently use RNC-provided email addresses instead:

"we trust that you will be collecting and producing emails and documents from all email accounts, addresses and domains and that you are not artificially limiting your production to the official White House email and document retention system."

Don't miss this.

Here's a clip from this morning's House government reform committee hearing, investigating General Services Administration Chief Lurita Doan.

In this clip, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) grills her on a PowerPoint presentation (pdf) given by Karl Rove's deputy Scott Jennings to GSA personnel in January. The slides (13 pages) detailed which seats were "House Targets" and which "Senate Targets", which states were "Republican Offense," and which "Republican Defense." After the presentation, Doan reportedly asked other employees how the agency could help "our candidates." The GSA, remember, is the government's procurement agency, in charge of almost $60 billion each year. All of this seems like a clear violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using federal resources to aid political parties.

Doan doesn't have a good answer for Braley's questions, stuttering out "I don't recall"s and something about how the meeting was a "brown bag lunch" for the purpose of “team building.” You should "ask Mr. Jennings," she says.

More at Thinkprogress and The Gavel.

Sam Fox, the administration's pick to be the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, has withdrawn his bid.

Why? Things weren't going his way. From the AP:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and other Democrats are raising concerns about Fox's nomination to be ambassador to Belgium because of a $50,000 contribution Fox made in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth....

With a vote on Fox expected Wednesday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry's Vietnam crew mates on Tuesday sent a letter urging committee members to oppose Fox's nomination. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

“In our judgment, those who finance smears and lies of combat veterans don't deserve to represent America on the world stage,” said the letter signed by James Rassman and 10 other Vietnam Swift Boat veterans who served with Kerry.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Tuesday he opposes the nomination because Fox “refused to apologize for his behavior” during his confirmation hearing last month.

From U.S. News:

...just a week after E-mails in the U.S. attorneys case became a main focus of congressional Democrats probing the firings, several aides said that they stopped using the White House system except for purely professional correspondence.

"We just got a bit lazy," said one aide. "We knew E-mails could be subpoenaed. We saw that with the Clintons but I don't think anybody saw that we were doing anything wrong."

Pakistan's $4.2 Billion 'Blank Check' for U.S. Military Aid "In the three years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. military aid to Pakistan soared to $4.2 billion, compared to $9.1 million in the three years before the attacks — a 45,000 percent increase — boosting Pakistan to the top tier of countries receiving this type of funding. More than half of the new money was provided through a post-9/11 Defense Department program — Coalition Support Funds — not closely tracked by Congress." (Center for Public Integrity)

Read More →

The Washington Post has a mostly flattering profile of Kyle Sampson in the Style section today. And I just had to laugh at this section in particular:

A devout Mormon born and bred in Utah and educated at Brigham Young University, where he met his wife, Noelle, Sampson coveted the U.S. attorney's job in Salt Lake City and twice approached the man who still had the job, Paul Warner -- now a federal magistrate -- to ask him when he'd be stepping down. The first occurred in a conference room in Utah, Warner said, and the second took place during a lunch in Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Though they shared the same home state, Warner and Sampson followed different public service narratives. A former JAG attorney, Warner had spent 17 years in various capacities in the U.S. attorney's office, saying it "was where I wanted to be, not where I wanted to be from."

In speaking to the eager Sampson, Warner asked him to slow his motor.

"I let him know he would be helped with practical experience as a prosecutor," Warner said. "I told him he should spend some time as an assistant U.S. attorney. If you're going to be chief surgeon, it's nice to do some surgery."

Yep, and Sampson's the guy who was in charge of replacing U.S. attorneys all over the country. Too bad Warner, that relic of a prior age, didn't understand what being a U.S. attorney is really about.

Kyle Sampson says that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty misled Congress just because the topic of White House involvement didn't come up in the prep meetings. He's expected to say the same thing under oath tomorrow.

But McNulty apparently has a very different story. From The New York Observer:

...Mr. McNulty subsequently told [Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)] that he had been purposefully kept in the dark by senior staffers inside Mr. Gonzales’ inner circle. “McNulty told me he asked explicit questions: Did you do this, this, this? And he did not get affirmative answers from Sampson,” said Mr. Schumer.

No wonder Monica Goodling, who was also at those meetings, has taken the Fifth.

Yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to grovel for forgiveness. Over the past several years, the FBI has used thousands of National Security Letters to improperly obtain private information on citizens. The reasons, according to Mueller: "mistakes, carelessness, confusion, lack of training, lack of guidance and lack of adequate oversight."

The senators spent some time scolding him, but relented after it was clear he wouldn't fight back. Mueller's penitence, Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) soothingly observed, "seems to be a break from many in this administration now."

But the hearing was also a golden opportunity to grill Mueller on the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wanted to know whether Mueller had ever gotten wind of election fraud cases that should have been indicted, but were not (remember, U.S. attorneys work hand-in-hand with the FBI). Mueller responded that he'd never heard, nor asked about such a thing. Schumer followed up, asking whether the administration had consulted him about the prosecutors' performance on election fraud investigations. Again, no. Was he consulted at all about any of the prosecutors' performance before the firings? No.

The bottom line: though powerful Republicans were upset with the decisions not to indict Democrats for voter fraud, the investigators on the ground were not. Mueller said that regional offices do customarily pass complaints about U.S. attorneys up the chain for "serious cases."

There was another fruitful line of questioning.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) wanted to know why the bureau chief for San Diego Dan Dzwilewski had complained to the press about Carol Lam's firing, said that he "guaranteed" politics was involved, and that without her, a number of ongoing investigations might be jeopardized. Specter didn't want to hear that from the press -- he wanted to hear that sort of thing from Mueller.

Mueller responded that Dzwilewski hadn't passed such complaints up the chain, and that "my understanding is that our chief out there believes he was misquoted, but that our investigations were continuing, without any diminishment."

Misquoted? Sen. Dianne Feinstein followed up:

FEINSTEIN: Well, we followed up and I had my chief counsel call them to verify what they said. And they said, yes, they said it. But they also said they'd been warned to say no more. Are you aware that they had been warned to say no more?

MUELLER: Yes, I am.

FEINSTEIN: And why would that be?

MUELLER: Because I do not think it's appropriate for us to comment on personnel decisions that are made by the Department of Justice....

FEINSTEIN: Well, I profoundly disagree that he was commenting on a personnel matter per se. He was simply saying that it would affect cases that were ongoing. And I think he's entitled to his opinion.