Double Trouble, Boil and Bubble: Rove in the Soup

It's not only Alberto Gonzales who's in trouble, Karl Rove has some explaining to do as well. As Shakespeare wrote,

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Dan Froomkin, writing in Friday's Washington Post, The Politics of Distraction, warns us not to miss the forest for the trees. Whether Alberto Gonzales stays or goes, there's more to the story of the U.S. Attorney firings, and Karl Rove is in the midst of the soup.


The proposed housecleaning of all 93 U.S. attorneys is a red herring. Not only would firing all of them have been a political and logistical nightmare, but it would have been foolish from Rove's point of view. After all, the vast majority were apparently behaving exactly as he wanted -- as "loyal Bushies."

The key question, that the White House continues to duck: Did Rove approve of -- or perhaps even conceive of -- the idea of firing select attorneys? And if so, on what grounds? The latest e-mails certainly indicate that he was involved very early on.

Froomkin writes, and I agree, keep your eye on Karl Rove. From the LA Times:

White House political advisor Karl Rove more than two years ago began seeking input from the Department of Justice into how many U.S. attorneys should be fired in the second Bush administration, according to e-mails released Thursday that show a deeper White House involvement in the dismissal of federal prosecutors last year.

The e-mails also show that the Justice Department was willing to defer to Rove on the matter.

The Boston Globe gets it right.

IT IS customary for newly elected presidents to replace large numbers of US attorneys, especially if the new president is from a different party. It is not customary for presidents to sweep out many of their own appointees to these positions in the middle of their administration.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales caved in to pressure from the White House for such a housecleaning in recent months. Then department officials led Congress to believe that the eight US attorneys in question were forced out for performance problems, not for what now appears to be the real reason in at least some cases -- that the prosecutors were not sufficiently partisan in election and political corruption cases. Gonzales has lost any credibility he had with Congress and the public as the nation's chief law enforcer. He should resign.

Who but Karl Rove could have successfully strategized to fire only the 8 U.S. Attorneys who refused to pony up on demands that investigations of Republicans be scrapped while investigations of Democrats be launched?

Check out the e-mail (pdf) from Colin Newman to David Leitch about Karl Rove's visit to the White House Counsel's Office to inquire about the proposal to replace U.S. Attorneys. Rove asked whether the White House Counsel's Office intended to let them all stay, request resignations from all but accept only some of them, or selectively replace them.

To me, as a defense lawyer who has observed each of those scenarios occur during my years of practice in federal court, it shows that Karl Rove was intimately familiar with the possible options. Not too many people have mentioned the option of requesting resignations from all but accepting only some.

On the date of the e-mail, Gonzales was still White House Counsel. He had not yet been confirmed as Attorney General. The e-mail even states that on the date it was written, Gonzales was undergoing confirmation hearings for Attorney General.

Rove is not a big e-mailer, we know that from the Plame investigation. But he made it a point to visit David Leitch, who wasn't in, hence he talked to Colin Newman.

Is there any doubt that Karl Rove was really seeking Alberto Gonzales' opinion? And that he had been briefed on the possibilities?

As Fred Fielding stalls in responding to Congress about whether Rove will testify, we should all be asking, to what extent did Karl Rove lean on the White House Counsel's office, which at the time included Alberto Gonzales, to push DOJ into firing those U.S. Attorneys that he perceived not to be aggressively pursuing the Bush agenda?

U.S. Attorney jobs are awarded to political loyalists. But once they are in the job, their job is to see that justice is done. While they serve at the pleasure of the President, their performance is not supposed to be judged by how well they serve a political agenda.

Alberto Gonzales was the President's lawyer when he was White House Counsel. But the U.S. Attorneys were fired while he was Attorney General. Were they fired for political reasons, at the behest of Karl Rove? Did Gonzales continue to act as the President's lawyer instead of America's lawyer after he was confirmed as Attorney General?

These are all fair questions. And the inquiry shouldn't end with Alberto Gonzales.

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    I can see a thread here (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by scribe on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 08:11:14 AM EST
    You note:
    To me, as a defense lawyer who has observed each of those scenarios occur during my years of practice in federal court, it shows that Karl Rove was intimately familiar with the possible options. Not too many people have mentioned the option of requesting resignations from all but accepting only some. (my emphasis)

    I recall, from my days (in the 80s) as a subscriber to National Review, their writing about the following scenario, which worked its way out and through the system in the early Reagan days.  They were discussing it in a triumphal voice, but I paraphrase:

    When a new President comes into office, it is traditional for ambassadors to offer their resignations.  It is (was) also, for reasons of not unduly disrupting the orderly process of diplomacy, especially where the ambassadors are overseas, the norm that the resignations would not be accepted, at least not until a suitable replacement could be ready to be presented for nomination and confirmation.  The State Department, a long-term bete noire of the "conservatives", if only because it liked to talk rather than fight*, was a particular target of the incoming Rethugs in 1981.  Too liberal, too soft on communism, etc.
    NatRev noted that when Reagan came in, as was traditional, all ambassadors offered their resignations.  They were shocked, shocked, shocked when many of them were immediately accepted.  And the shrieks emanating from Foggy Bottom were a source of great pleasure and merriment to the Reaganauts.

    Tell me:  if some nobody like yours truly can remember that incident, do you think Mr. Memory himself, Rover (who can discuss with deep knowledge precinct-by-precinct election results from the 19th century, we've been told back in his "genius" days) just might have remembered it, too?

    I think the answer is obvious - he knew of the ploy of asking for resignations and accepting only some.

    Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't just demand upfront that each US Attorney give the WH an undated letter of resignation, to be held in escrow.  I've seen business deals in which such were required... and if I can think of it....  A lot easier, no?  Waxman should make a point of outlawing such a practice, while he's at reforming record-keeping....

    One more thing.  We've seen in the emails dumped so far the use by people in the WH of back channel email accounts - through rnc.org and gwb43.com, for instance - to get the message communicated back and forth and try to avoid WH archiving systems.  Similarly, Rove's assistant (whose name escapes me now) who was his link to Abramoff, used aol.com and other non-WH email accounts for that purpose, too.  IIRC, this violates at least the Presidential Records Act and maybe other statutes, too.  I am of the opinion that any discussion of executive privilege will shortly, quickly, run up against and be vitiated on the shoals of disclosure through the use of these outside accounts.

    *A little digression.  In the Rethug world, talking and diplomacy are for sissies and girls.  And, yes, they view women as girls - even refer to them as such inter sese when out of their earshot.  War, defense, and serious policy positions are for men, big, hairy-chested men, only.  When I see Harriet Miers or some other woman in a policy position in a Rethug WH or cabinet department, I recognize that (a) she's there to make a pretty picture of diversity, but has little if any real power or influence, and (b) the real business is going on either behind her back or using her as a cutout or front, which she either does not know about, or doesn't have a voice in.
    Pretty much the same approach/attitude obtains for men of color, which includes Hispanics.  Seriously, if you are a Catholic, that itself is a strike against you in their crowd - and you have to work extra-hard and hew extra-close to the line (or even more rightward) to gain any level of acceptance.  A big pile of money on your side of the table helps, too.  Even then, "acceptance" really means "we'll tolerate your presence so long as you are useful".
    Keep that in mind with Giuliani.

    on tv, but it seems that the issue of email addresses is huge. To me, it shows a clear effort to circumvent the normal archving of emails, and is an indication that they expected to have something to hide. The question is: is that alone illegal? It seems like it should be, but I also would've thought that outing a covert operative would be illegal.

    Nice (5.00 / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 09:59:32 AM EST
    Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't just demand upfront that each US Attorney give the WH an undated letter of resignation, to be held in escrow.  

    Love it scribe.

    As far as 'girls' go, it is not so clear cut. Think Barbara Comstock, Barabra Toesening, et al. A highly selective version of Sadian mechanics going on: most females are girly victims aka Justine although a few wear the leather pants of Juliette.  

    I wish you hadn't brought up the idea of (none / 0) (#10)
    by scribe on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:01:16 PM EST
    Barbara Comstock or Victoria Toensing in leather pants.

    I just ate lunch.

    But, seriously, they just prove my point.  They are both in public relations (law degrees notwithstanding) - if you watched Toensing's "testimony" yesterday, that was eminently clear.  She was merely slinging b's PR lines, shown by her lack of factual knowledge for her bold assertions revealed under Waxman's cross-examination. She did not decide which lines to take - those were given to her by the male decision-makers.  The same applies to Comstock's work on behalf of Libby or, back when, digging dirt for Dan Burton.  She did not decide what to investigate then, or which lines to take now in trying to spin for Scooter.  They might be highly skilled and they might have significant independence in getting to accomplishment, but they remain in the position of carrying out the designs of men.


    Almost two years from initial discussions of... (none / 0) (#3)
    by cal11 voter on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 10:31:25 AM EST
    replacement to actual dismissal of seven of eight US Attorneys.  I don't understand why it took so long to implement changes.

    Also, what was President Reagan's practice on second term replacement of US Attorneys?

    Hypothetical (none / 0) (#4)
    by MPhilip on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 10:43:40 AM EST
    USA Smith has a particular expertise in  investigating federal election campaign contribution fraud. Smith comes into posession of evidence that Senator Jones has conspired to violate federal laws by committing in excess of 5 felonies. Smith convenes a grand jury to investigate Jones' conduct.


    Rove learns from sources other than Jones that Jones is under investigation as described. Rove also knows that Smith is the very best at conducting  investigations of federal campaign contributions fraud. Rove directs Gonzales to fire Smith and replace him with Rove protege' for the reasons set forth above. Gonzales follows this direction.

    Is Rove guilty of obstruction of justice?

    Is Gonzales guilty of obstruction?


    Rove learns from Jones that Jones is under investigation as described. Jones asks for help. Rove knows that Smith is the very best at conducting investigations of federal campaign contributions fraud. Rove directs Gonzales to fire Smith and replace him with Rove protege' for the reasons set forth above. Gonzales follows this direction.

    Is Rove guilty of obstruction of justice?

    Is Gonzales guilty of obstruction?

    Is Smith guilty of obstruction?

    excellent (none / 0) (#5)
    by orionATL on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 10:51:29 AM EST
    excellent post


    excellent comments,

    talk left.

    rove is at the heart of this scandal.

    rove is the strategizer for bush - not bush, not abu g., not harriet meirs.

    rove is also the national rebublican vote counter/vote getter.

    this scandal is entirely in character with rove, more than any other player in the white house or the national republican party.


    at bottom, this scandal is about manipulating elections when your policy arguments and your voter numbers might prove inferior.

    this is rove's specialty - cheating on the system - has been all his political life.

    even eternity in the cold, last ring of hell is not sufficient punishment for this destructive individual - destructive of his own party by the way, not just his nation's political system.

    Let's not forget ... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Sailor on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 11:34:59 AM EST
    ... the unusual methods they used to put their email exchanges outside of the WH system (and law):
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter today to Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), asking for an investigation into whether the White House has violated its mandatory record- keeping obligation under the Presidential Records Act (PRA).

    One email, sent to Justice Department Chief of Staff D. Kyle Sampson from J. Scott Jennings, White House Deputy Political Director, uses an email account, SJennings@gwb43.com, on a server owned by the Republican National Committee.
    A number of other emails from Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's former assistant Susan Ralston to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff document Ms. Ralston's use of three outside domains: rnchq.com (used for the headquarters of the Republican National Committee), georgebush.com and aol.com. In many of these emails Ms. Ralston is communicating inside White House information to Mr. Abramoff
     to fulfill its statutory obligations under the PRA, the White House email system automatically copies all messages created by staff and sends them to the White House Office of Records Management for archiving. It appears that the White House deliberately bypassed the automatic archiving function of its own email system that was designed to ensure compliance with the PRA.

    that's what I was referring to (none / 0) (#8)
    by scribe on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 11:53:04 AM EST
    in my comment above.

    And, while it violates the PRA, I do not know whether that's a criminal violation....


    MacDuff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dadler on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 11:54:46 AM EST
    Where's the C-section baby who's gonna save us?

    Denver's US Attorney? (none / 0) (#11)
    by magster on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:55:50 PM EST

    As you practice in federal court, is there any reason to think that the Denver US attorney was able to keep his job because of not pursuing GOP corruption or pursuing Dem corruption?  For example, shouldn't Beauprez' improper use of NCIC database been investigated by the Feds instead of the state?

    I understand that you probably can't say anything bad since you work with these US attorneys daily.

    If you look at the database... (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by MetaData on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 02:59:43 PM EST
    As I posted at MyDD in Second Shoe Drops on Prosecuter Purge Scandal, the extensive source study for the UN-PURGED Prosecutor scandal is an article by Donald Shields and John Cragan published at EpluribusMedia.org The Political Profiling of Elected Democratic Officials. Media reseearchers Donald Shields and John Cragan document the pattern of targetting Democratic investigations and indictments by Bush Justice Deptartment over the 6 years of the Bush Administration. I'll let them talk:

    We compare political profiling to racial profiling by presenting the results (January 2001 through December 2006) of the U.S. Attorneys' federal investigation and/or indictment of 375 elected officials. The distribution of party affiliation of the sample is compared to the available normative data (50% Dem, 41% GOP, and 9% Ind.).

    Data indicate that the offices of the U.S. Atttorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops.

    If you look at the database in the appendix, there isn't much information, pro or con regarding the cases handled in Colorado.

    The political usage of investigations was primarily at the local and within-state domain, not the state-wide and high-visibililty domain. In other words, the whole thing was kept low level so that national journalists wouldn't get wind of it and figure out the how widespread the pattern really was....


    Here in Tennessee (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by reaganlaw on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 11:08:15 AM EST
    the day after Harold Ford made his formal announcement that he running as a Democratic  candidate for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee announced the indictment of Democratic State Senator John Ford, Harold's uncle. The Western District's US Attorney's name was not on Bush's list for removal.