Call it a missed opportunity. The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Ali Ata, a former official from Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) administration who’s pleaded guilty to corruption charges, will testify that Tony Rezko told him that he had an inside track to getting U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald canned.
This all apparently happened back in 2004, when the Rezko investigation was just getting off the ground. Now Rezko is on trial for rigging state boards for contracts. And Ata will apparently testify that Rezko told him that Bob Kjellander, a connected Republican who’s currently vice chairman of the Republican National Convention, “was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed.”
Now, at the time, Rove would have had his own reasons to see Fitzgerald canned — he’d just been tapped in December, 2003 as the special counsel to investigate CIA agent Valerie Plame’s outing. But that would sure have been a bold move even for Rove. We’ve put in a call to Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin and we’ll let you know if he responds.
This was not the last time that an administration official might have mulled firing Fitzgerald. Former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales Kyle Sampson testified last year that he’d suggested canning the U.S. attorney in a conversation in the White House with Harriet Miers and her deputy in 2006. The two of them “just looked” at him, he said. When asked why he’d suggested it, Sampson testified that maybe it was just to “get a reaction out of them.”
Update: Luskin responds to Tribune:
“Karl has known Kjellander for many years, but does not recall him or anyone else arguing for Fitzgerald’s removal. And he (Rove) is very certain that he didn’t take any steps to do that, or have any conversations with anyone in the White House — or in the Justice Department — about doing anything like that.”