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Ashcroft, Fitzgerald and Rove: New From Murray Waas

Upddate: Murray has more over at his blog, Whatever Already, including this very important news:

What has not been previously reported until now (a blog breaks news!?), is that not only could Rove not remember the name of the journalist who purportedly might have told him of Plame's CIA employment, but he also claimed to remember virtually nothing about the circumstances of the purported conversation. He could not even recall whether the conversation took place on the phone or in person.

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Original Post: 8/14 6:20 pm

Investigative journalist Murray Waas who has broken some of the biggest stories in RoveGate has a new article up at the Village Voice.

To paraphrase:

  • Federal investigators believed Karl Rove fibbed during one of his first interviews on the Valerie Plame leak. He didn't tell them about talking to Time Reporter Matthew Cooper. They also doubted his claim that he had learned about Plame's identity from a journalist.
  • Despite concerns over former Attorney General John Ashcroft's close personal ties to Karl Rove, Ashcroft got briefings on the investigation. Members of the Justice Department believed Ashcroft should recuse himself because of his ties to Rove. Eventually he did and Comey then appointed Fitzgerald to lead the investigation. But the Justice Department has never explained its reasons for Ashcroft's recusal.

The combination of Ashcroft's close relationship with Rove, the omission of critical information from the FBI by Rove during his initial interview with agents, that Ashcroft had been briefed about that interview in particular, and the-then recent appointment of Comey, all allowed for a forceful case being made by career Justice Department employees be made that the attorney general should step aside and a special prosecutor be named. But says one government official familiar with the process: "When Ashcroft was briefed on Rove, that ended the argument. He was going to be removed. And there was going to be a special prosecutor named."

  • John Conyers issued a statement Friday calling for an investigation by the Justice Department into the Ashcroft-Rove ties with respect to the Plame leak investigation.

"The new information, that Ashcroft had not only refused to recuse himself over a period of months, but also was insisting on being personally briefed about a matter implicating his friend, Karl Rove, represents a stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation by the Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General."

As to why this information matters now, Waas reports:

First, they show that from the very earliest days of the criminal probe, federal investigators had a strong belief and body of evidence that Rove and perhaps other officials might be misleading them.

Second, the new information underscores that career Justice Department staffers had concerns that the continued role of Ashcroft and other political aides might tarnish the investigation.

Finally, the new information once again highlights the importance of the testimony of journalists in uncovering whether anyone might have broken the law by disclosing classified information regarding Plame. That is because both Rove and I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney—who are at the center of the Plame investigation—have said that they did not learn of Plame's employment with the CIA from classified government information, but rather journalists; without the testimony of journalists, prosecutors have been unable to get to the bottom of the matter.

TalkLeft has previously reported on the Justice Department's refusal to explain the reasons for Ashcroft's recusal and on Ashcroft's close ties to Rove. What Murray Waas adds today is that it was Ashcroft's close ties to Rove, Ashcroft's receiving briefings on the investigation, and the federal investigators' belief that Rove lied to them in October, 2003 that led to the actual recusal and appointment of Fitzgerald as special prosecutor - and to Rep. Conyer's call for an investigation.

Where will it go from here? One possibility is that there will be a new Justice Department investigation into Ashcroft's conduct by the Office of Professional Responsibility or the Inspector General. One unresolved issue: Did Ashcroft tell Rove or anyone else about the investigators' belief that Rove lied?

Update: Eriposte at Left Coaster was also tipped to the new Waas article.

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  • Re: Ashcroft, Fitzgerald and Rove: New From Murray (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:20 PM EST
    I would love to see Ashcroft fry, but was a bit confused by the Wass article on other points. 1. I thought that Comey appointed David Margolis in order to scoop Bush #1 lacky Timothy E. Flanigan who is toast to Abramoff's jam; and Bush #2 lacky Yale Skull & Bones classmate Robert McCallum. Is it true that McCallum will oversee Fitzpatrick now? Didn't TL report on that Aug 12 Margolis was to take over? 2. Why is Wass skipping over Roberts as a source of the leak and creator of bogus info? Why didn't he mention Pincus' recent article regarding Roberts' fabrication ('view') disseminated on two secret memos? Maybe I missed something or have gotten it wrong.... what's going on here?

    Read through Waas again. He's talking about when Ashcroft recused himself...it was then that Comey appointed Fitzgerald. Comey left the DOJ this week and appointed Margolis in his stead as having oversight of Fitzgerald.

    Re: Ashcroft, Fitzgerald and Rove: New From Murray (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:20 PM EST
    Am I misreading this paragraph near the end of the article? "Last week, however, Comey announced he was leaving the Justice Department to become the general counsel of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin. In his absence, Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is the most likely choice to be named as the acting deputy attorney general, and thus the man overseeing Fitzgerald's work. But McCallum has been a close personal friend of President Bush. Justice Department officials are once more grappling as to how to best assure independence for investigators. And Democrats on Capitol Hill are unlikely not to question any role in the leak probe by McCallum."

    Congress doesn't get back until after Labor Day. The Senate has to deal with John Roberts nomination. There has been opposition to McCallum. Hopefully, McCallum won't be confirmed, if at all, before Fitzgerald, under the watch of Margolis, has finished the investigation and obtained Indictments.

    Re: Ashcroft, Fitzgerald and Rove: New From Murray (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:20 PM EST
    I see. That makes sense. Because Wass always seems up to date I was surprised that he did not mention Margolis at all in that paragraph.

    Re: Ashcroft, Fitzgerald and Rove: New From Murray (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:02:22 PM EST
    Perury charges seem likely. Fitzgeraly evidently hates liars, "takes it personally when he is lied to" and
    has a history of invoking perjury laws and related statutes to buttress his investigations.
    via huffpo

    The legal threads in the Plame/Rove leak are coming along quite nicely. But I still have two queries: Now that Bush recess appointed Bolton, befitting his "made-man" status in La Cosa Nostra of Pennsylvania Avenue, and we also learned that Bolton paid intrepid reporter Judith Miller a jailhouse visit, will Fitzpatrick now follow-up with a grand jury request for a friendly tête-à-tête with Bolton...? And just exactly who were the career Justice Department employees who demanded Ashcroft recuse himself and had the clout to hold sway in the matter...? Just-a-wandering.