With all the other stuff going on in the news, people may have lost track of the release of the transcripts of testimony and e-mails that showed that Karl Rove was very much behind the political firing of Attorneys General during the George W. Bush administration under Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Several papers covered it but the Washington Post probably is the best source as a sort of "home town" paper. Here are several stories, all from Aug. 12, 2009:
Testimony Puts Rove at Center of Firings, by Stephen Ohlemacher:
Transcripts of closed-door congressional testimony indicate that Rove played a central role in the ouster of David Iglesias, who was one of nine federal prosecutors fired in a series of politically tinged dismissals in 2006.Former Attorney General Makes the Mistake of Talking
Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was "very agitated" over Iglesias "and wanted something done about it."
The committee released more than 5,400 pages of White House and Republican National Committee e-mails, along with transcripts of closed-door testimony by Miers and Rove. Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the documents reveal that White House political officials were deeply involved in the firing of Iglesias and the other U.S. attorneys.
The documents show that staffers in Rove's office were actively seeking to have Iglesias removed after Republican figures in New Mexico complained that he was not pursuing voter fraud cases they wanted. In 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide saying, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY."
by columnist Al Kamen, catching up with Alberto Gonzales, who seems to be writing a book!
Analysis: In Attorney Probe, One Burning Question, by Matt Apuzzo, an A.P. writer who has some pretty trenchant observations:
In keeping the controversy alive, Democrats have muddied the discussion: Did political adviser Karl Rove fire a prosecutor so his friend could get the job? Did the White House cut a deal with a senator and agree to fire a prosecutor in exchange for putting a judge on the bench? Did political operatives second-guess decisions about what cases prosecutors were filing?He points out that the matter is not black and white and that both the Republicans and the Democrats are being disingenuous and hiding the ball in this discussion. Both the President and Congress routinely ask offices to investigate in their own interests. Read the whole article.
Those are the questions House Judiciary Committee Democrats focused on this week after releasing thousands of pages of e-mails and transcripts of their interviews with Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
But politics in the Justice Department is nothing new. The real question is whether the Bush administration took it a step further and illegally used prosecutors to go after political enemies.
The Justice Department has a unique pedigree. It is a governmental descendent of the mythological Lady Justice, who carried a sword to fight evil and blindly balanced fairness. But it also has political DNA, inherited from a long line of presidents who used the department to champion civil rights, break up companies and fight communists and terrorists as the White House saw fit.There is built-in tension here before the president picks any of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys. Job seekers in any administration can expect some variation of the questions, "What have you done to help elect the president?" and "Do you have anything in your past that could embarrass the president?"
On paper, a U.S. attorney has wide authority as the senior federal law enforcement official in his district. In reality, he gets his priorities from the attorney general and the White House. If the administration's priorities are terrorists, guns and gangs, the new U.S. attorney may shut down investigations into environmental crimes, corruption or computer fraud.
At its heart, that's a political decision. If the president promises to stop violent crime but a U.S. attorney is instead getting tough on polluters, the White House is going to notice.
In the run-up to the 2006 firing of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, the head of the state's Republican Party e-mailed the White House, complaining that Iglesias was soft on voter fraud. He asked that Iglesias be replaced so the state could "make some real progress in cleaning up a state notorious for crooked elections."
The Bush administration took the complaint to heart. In a June 2005 e-mail, White House adviser Scott Jennings said the New Mexico congressional delegation was also frustrated over the lack of voter fraud cases. He urged that Iglesias be fired.
"Iglesias has done nothing. We are getting killed out there," Jennings wrote to Rove's deputy.
Comments like this are what the controversy is really about. The firing only matters if it offers insight into whether the White House wanted Iglesias to take out its political opponents. Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy is investigating that question, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., says he gave her all the documents the panel collected.
The relationship between U.S. attorneys and Washington is not a simple matter.
And for real political junkies, here is the link to the actual documents posted by the House Judiciary Committee.