Emails Show Rove’s Role In U.S. Attorney Firings

July 30, 2009 11:14 a.m.

Karl Rove did his second and final day of testimony before Congress about his role in the U.S. attorney firings today. And we’re getting more confirmation that that role was more extensive than he’s yet let on.

The Washington Post and New York Times have obtained emails that offer glimpses into Rove’s role in the firing of certain of the U.S. attorneys. They jibe closely with many similar emails that were released last year as part of a Justice Department inspector general report which essentially found that the firings were engineered by Rove and other White House officials.In one email, from November 2006, just a month before the firings, Rove commanded his deputy:

Give me a report on what U.S. Attorneys slot are vacant or expected to be open soon.

The deputy, Scott Jennings, replied: “Yes, sir.”

Another of the new emails shows Rove’s office discussing a GOP senator’s request that David Iglesias be fired, and appearing to suggest that the White House itself, rather than the Justice Department, would be responsible for doing so.

The Post reports:

In an Oct. 10, 2006, e-mail from White House political affairs aide Scott Jennings to Rove, Jennings reported:

“I received a call from Steve Bell tonight. . . . Last week Sen. Domenici reached the chief of staff and asked that we remove the U.S. Atty. Steve wanted to make sure we all understood that they couldn’t be more serious about this request.”

A second group of emails shows Rove suggesting that a protege of his, Tim Griffin, might be a good candidate for a U.S. attorney post in Arkansas. The man holding the job at the time, Bud Cummins, was later one of the victims of the firings, and the White House attempted to appoint Griffin in his place.

From the Post:

In a Feb. 11, 2005, e-mail, Rove wrote to deputy Sara Taylor: “Give [Griffin] options. Keep pushing for Justice and let him decide. I want him on the team.” Then White House counsel Miers e-mailed Taylor a month later, writing, “Sara, Karl asked me to forward you a list of locations where we may consider replacing the USAs…”

Rove himself suggested Little Rock, where Cummins was U.S. attorney, as a post for Griffin, reminding Miers in March 2005 that “that’s where he’s from.” The next day, Sara Taylor forwarded some communications about Griffin to RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who wrote, “let me know his reaction,” according to the e-mails.

The papers also did an interview with Rove, on the understanding that it couldn’t be released until his testimony was complete. In that sit-down, Rove acknowledged: “Yes, I was a recipient of complaints, and I passed them on to the counsel’s office to be passed onto Justice,”

He added that complaints about weak enforcement of voter fraud laws — the issue Domenici had raised about Iglesias — “had the sound of authenticity to me.”

In fact, Rove took the opportunity to keep beating the drum about voter fraud — though there’s no evidence whatsoever of the phenomenon occurring on a significant scale.

Reports the Times:

“I am concerned about voter fraud,” [Rove] said, noting that it was “far more of a problem and widespread” than has been acknowledged. “It always mystified me why the issue was not a higher priority for the Justice Department. I never got a satisfactory answer.”

Rove also said in the interview that he’s “sure” that President Bush was told about the firings in advance. “Maybe Harriet [Miers] talked to him about it,” Rove told the Post. “I’m sure they did walk in at the end and say, ‘Mr. President, we want to make a change here.'”

Why did Rove — who hasn’t so far been known for being forthcoming on this subject, to put it mildly — agree to these interviews and release the emails with them? Presumably, he believes they’ll come out eventually thanks to the House Judiciary committee probe, and he wants to get ahead of the story and start spinning things his way. (On that score, he must be heartened by the Timesheadline.)

So this may be an indication that the committee is signaling it intends to soon release a substantial amount of new material, including the transcript of Rove’s testimony. There’s also a special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, looking into whether laws were broken in connection to the firings. So this story is a long way from over.

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