E-mails show Rove role

in U.S. Attorney Firings

    

By Jan Crawford Greenburg

 ABC News

 

E-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with Harriet Miers.

 

New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than previously acknowledged by the White House.

 

The e-mails also show Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse while he was still White House counsel - weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

 

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers and was her idea alone.

 

Two independent sources in a position to know have described the contents of the e-mail exchange, which could be released as early as Friday. They put Rove at the epicenter of the imbroglio and raise questions about Gonzales' explanations of the matter.

 

The e-mail exchange is dated in early January 2005, more than a month before the White House acknowledged it was considering firing all the U.S. attorneys - and while Gonzales still was White House counsel. On its face, the plan is not improper, inappropriate or even unusual: The President has the right to fire U.S. attorneys at any time, and presidents have done so when they took office.

 

What has made the issue a political firestorm is the White House's insistence that the idea came from Harriet Miers and was swiftly rejected.

 

White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters Tuesday that Miers had suggesting firing all 93 and that it was "her idea only." Snow said Miers' idea was quickly rejected by the Department of Justice.

 

However, Miers was Bush's staff secretary at that time in January 2005. She did not become White House counsel for another month, after Gonzales left to become attorney general.

 

The latest e-mails show that Gonzales and Rove both were involved in the discussion, and neither rejected it out of hand.

 

According to the e-mails, Rove raised the issue with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch, prompting Leitch to e-mail then-Justice Department lawyer Kyle Sampson. Sampson had moved over to the Justice Department after working with Gonzales in the White House.

 

Sampson responded to Leitch that he had discussed the idea with Gonzales two weeks earlier and that they were considering several different options.

 

Editor's Note: Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to issue subpoenas to 11 current and former Department of Justice officials as part of the panel's ongoing investigation into the firings of eight prosecutors.

 

The authorization covers five Department of Justice officials and six fired US attorneys. The Department of Justice officials are: Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff of the Department of Justice; Michael Elston, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty; William Mercer, acting associate attorney general; Monica Goodling, counsel to the attorney general and White House liaison; Michael Battle, former director of Executive Office for United States Attorneys. The former US attorneys are: H. E. "Bud" Cummins III, former US attorney, Eastern District of Arkansas; David C. Iglesias, former US attorney, District of New Mexico; Carol Lam, former US attorney, Southern District of California; John McKay, former US attorney, Western District of Washington; Paul K. Charlton, former US attorney, District of Arizona; Daniel G. Bogden, former US attorney, District of Nevada.

 

Senator Leahy stated that he expected the committee to vote on similar authorizations within a week for White House officials Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff to the President; Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel; and William Kelley, deputy counsel to the president. - TO/vh

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