Rove Memoir Offers Little on U.S. Attorney Purge
By Leah Nylen | March 9, 2010 1:49 pm

Former White House adviser Karl Rove’s memoir Courage and Consequences was released Tuesday. Main Justice has a copy and will be blogging any interesting bits on the Justice Department.

In the new memoir, former White House adviser Karl Rove only briefly discusses the U.S. Attorney firings controversy and denies that the White House had anything more than a peripheral involvement in the selection of which attorneys got the ax.

“Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and top aides removed the attorneys after a two-year review of all U.S. Attorneys that began after the 2004 election,” Rove wrote. “They made the decision because the attorneys were not performing well or were going to leave anyway, not because they were disloyal to the Republican Party. No one at the White House compiled a list of U.S. attorneys to be removed or ordered the Justice Department to add a name to the list.”

In 2006, the White House dismissed seven U.S. attorneys. Soon after, congressional Democrats began an investigation of the firings, alleging that some of the removals were politically motivated. Gonzales and several of his top aides at the Justice Department ultimately resigned. But Rove devotes only four pages out of the 520-page book to the scandal.

(Simon & Schuster)

In the book, Rove acknowledges he forwarded three complaints about David Iglesias, then the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, to the Justice Department. Rove said he heard complaints that Iglesias failed to investigate claims of voter fraud in Albuquerque after the 2004 election, that he bungled a high-profile corruption case involving state treasurers and that the attorney declined to file an indictment against several prominent state Democrats allegedly involved in a kickback scheme until after the November 2006 election.

Rove pointedly does not say who complained to him about Iglesias. (Allen Weh, the former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, has said publicly that he complained to Rove about the New Mexico U.S. Attorney.) But Rove does take Iglesias to task himself, alleging that the prosecutor was interested in running for the U.S. Senate and might have been looking to curry favor with local Democrats.

“I could understand not issuing a politically charged indictment a few days before the election,” Rove said. “The timing of Judge Walsh’s indictment of former Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger just days before the 1992 presidential election was egregious. But sitting on an indictment for nine to twelve months, allegedly because of political considerations, seemed inappropriate.”

Rove also defended himself for passing along the complaints about Iglesias.

“My responsibility was to pass on such complaints to appropriate officials,” Rove wrote. “Even so, the Bush White House was not like the Clinton White House, where political director Rahm Emanuel was in weekly contact with Justice. We showed deference to the Justice Department’s special position: communications flowed through the White House Counsel’s office to the designated officials at Justice. So I passed the complaints on to the counsel’s office, which decided whether to send them on to Justice and raised to Attorney General Gonzales the question of the department’s policy on prosecuting voter fraud.”

Rove also saved some fire for the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, whom he called “hyperpartisan and ultraliberal.” While investigating the firings, the panel sought testimony from White House counsel Harriet Miers and Rove. The White House declined to make them available, citing executive privilege. In response, the committee subpoenaed Miers and Rove in 2008. In March 2009, the Obama administration brokered a deal between Rove and the committee that would allow him to testify in a closed-door session. The former adviser eventually testified in two day-long sessions in July 2009.

In the memoir, Rove took a dig at California Democrat Adam Schiff, who was the chief interrogator during the sessions, saying “he was clearly not prepared.”

“The committee staff drew up questions, many of them duplicative, and Schiff appeared to be seeing them for the first time when he sat down,” Rove wrote. “There were long pauses as he silently read the questions before repeating them to me. At times, the questioning veered close to lunacy.”

One other pointed omission in Rove’s memoir — he makes no mention of his interview last year with Acting Connecticut U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy in September 2008 to investigate the U.S. attorney firings. The results of that investigation have not been made public.

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