No Comment — June 13, 2007, 1:24 pm

U.S. Attorneys Scandal – Little Rock: All Roads Lead to Rove

I’ve now heard from several sources within the Administration that a significant part of the documents which are being withheld–both by the Department of Justice and the White House–demonstrate Karl Rove’s on-going dabbling in the internal affairs of the Justice Department, including the management of cases under investigation or being prosecuted and the process of removing and appointing various U.S. attorneys. I also continue to hear that Fred Fielding has argued in favor of disclosure of at least a large part of these documents, but that Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove himself are absolutely adamant about withholding them–for fairly obvious reason that they would tend to incriminate both Gonzales and Rove.

Last night there was another fairly modest document dump by the Department of Justice. The new documents include a group of emails from February 2007, in which Rove’s senior adjutants react to the initial disclosures Tim Griffin–a Rove protégé–had been installed as the federal prosecutor in Little Rock. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty had acknowledged that Cummins was moved out to create a vacancy for Griffin. The documents tie Rove’s office firmly to the decision to remove Cummins and to orchestrate a cover-up. The documents can be examined here, and they contain some small, rough gems. For instance, a deliberation of whether or not to attack the departing U.S. attorneys, some rage over their discussion with the press of the circumstances for their departure, and a lot of concern about Griffin, who (transparently) is being groomed for high political office. The most important thing revealed, however, as properly flagged in this McClatchy article, is the rage against Paul J. McNulty for disclosing a little bit of the truth.

The White House’s former political director was furious at Justice Department officials for disclosing to Congress that the administration had forced out the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., to make way for a protege of Karl Rove, President Bush’s political adviser, according to documents released late Tuesday. Then-White House political affairs director Sara Taylor spelled out her frustrations in a Feb. 16 e-mail to Kyle Sampson, then the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

She sent the message after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the Senate that unlike other federal prosecutors, U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins wasn’t fired for performance reasons, but to make way for former Republican political operative Tim Griffin. Griffin, serving as the interim U.S. attorney, then announced that he wouldn’t seek confirmation to the Arkansas post, but would remain until the Senate confirmed someone else. Griffin has since resigned.

“Tim was put in a horrible position; hung out to dry w/ no heads up,” Taylor lashed out in the e-mail, which was sent from a Republican Party account rather than from her White House e-mail address. “This is not good for his long-term career.”

Taylor has since departed, and it seems reasonable to assume that this and other documents were held up from release at least until she could be separated from the White House.

It’s simply amazing that the Judiciary Committee has not let loose the cache of subpoenas which have long been authorized. The pattern of deception and evasion is now clear, and the tiny dribble of documents can hardly justify their inaction. Against this background, Senator Leahy’s statement is curiously restrained:

These documents, which should have been released by the Department long ago, provide further evidence that White House officials like former Political Director Sara Taylor were deeply involved in the mass firings of well-performing prosecutors. The Department of Justice should not be reduced to a political arm of the White House. We need an end to the White House’s stonewalling of our investigations so we can learn the truth.

The answer, Senator, is to issue the subpoenas and raise the pressure for compliance. The displays of goodwill up to this point have been very one-sided.

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