From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Thousands of pages of internal e-mail and once-secret Congressional testimony showed Tuesday that Karl Rove and other senior aides in the Bush White House played an earlier and more active role than was previously known in the 2006 firings of a number of United States attorneys.
Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.
But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.
Internal e-mail messages in the spring of 2005 at the White House showed that there was widespread unhappiness with David Iglesias, the United States attorney in New Mexico, because of the perception among top Republicans that he was dragging his feet on voter fraud and corruption investigations involving Democrats.
In a June 2005 message, Scott Jennings, a top political aide to Mr. Rove, wrote a colleague that Mr. Iglesias should be removed because Republicans in New Mexico “are really angry over his lack of action on voter fraud stuff.”
Mr. Iglesias was ultimately let go in December 2006, along with seven other federal prosecutors in an unusual dismissal of top presidential appointees.
Robert Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, said the material released Tuesday demonstrated that there was “absolutely no evidence” the White House had used inappropriate political motivations to punish federal prosecutors.
Bush administration officials have publicly suggested that Mr. Iglesias was dismissed because of a subpar performance and absences from the office — he was a Navy reservist.
Those issues do not surface in the newly released e-mail. Rather, the dissatisfaction of New Mexico Republicans over the investigations was the focus in 2005 and 2006. Nonetheless, one message shows that the White House was told that the Justice Department planned to say the New Mexico investigations played no role in the dismissal.
In that exchange, in February 2007, William K. Kelly, of the White House Counsel’s Office, wrote an e-mail message to several senior officials, including Fred Fielding, the White House counsel, and Tony Snow, the press secretary. Referring to the Justice Department, Mr. Kelly wrote, “They are planning to deny that the investigation in question played any role in DOJ’s decision, and to deny that any Member contacted main Justice to complain about the conduct (or not) of any particular investigation.”
In fact, Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, had called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to complain about Mr. Iglesias and his failure to bring voting fraud cases. The messages also show that Mr. Domenici had contacted Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, about removing the United States attorney.
In closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators, Harriet Miers, a White House counsel under Mr. Bush, recalled getting a telephone call from a “very agitated” Mr. Rove in the fall of 2006, making clear to her that he wanted action taken against Mr. Iglesias.
In a recent interview, Mr. Rove said he viewed himself as only passing the complaints about Mr. Iglesias on to Ms. Miers.
Ms. Miers said she could not explicitly recall being asked to have Mr. Iglesias fired. But she called the deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty, to ask him to follow up on the matter.
“He is getting lots of complaints,” Ms. Miers recalled telling Mr. McNulty, referring to Mr. Rove. “And it was a problem.”
The Senate Ethics Committee last year admonished Mr. Domenici for his efforts to have Mr. Iglesias removed.
The documents also provide new evidence about Mr. Rove’s push to have an aide and protégé, Timothy Griffin, tapped as United States attorney in Arkansas to replace Bud Cummins, who was told to resign. “It was no secret I was for him,” Mr. Rove acknowledged to the Congressional investigators.
Even so, the Justice Department in February 2007 told members of Congress in a letter as the controversy was unfolding that it was “not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.”
A federal prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, is continuing to investigate the firings, including whether officials gave false or misleading statements to Congress.