In 2006, then-Rep. Rick Renzi’s re-election was in serious jeopardy. Rumors were flying that Arizona Republican was the target of a federal criminal investigation. Reporters were picking up on them. Scott Jennings, a senior aide to Karl Rove, warned White House counsel Harriet Miers of the issue in 2006, according to according to emails released by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Miers’s response? She called Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to ask him to issue a statement to dispel the Renzi rumors. The only problem: The rumors were true. Read Murray Waas’s report in The Huffington Post here.
Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who was leading the investigation, already had found enough evidence of alleged criminal misconduct to warrant the Department of Justice approving a request that Charlton seek an application from a federal judge to wiretap Renzi’s telephone.
In 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Renzi on 38 counts of money laundering, extortion, insurance fraud, and other alleged felonies. Renzi left office in January 2009, after announcing he would not seek another term in office.
Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration, told Waas in an interview Tuesday: “It’s a great disappointment that the White House not only would ask that the Justice Department comment about an ongoing investigation but also lie about that investigation. And it is even a greater disappointment that the Gonzales Department of Justice and would comment at all about an ongoing investigation let alone make untruthful comments about an investigation.”
In June, career federal law enforcement officials involved in the Renzi investigation told Waas they wanted Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate a formal investigation of the Miers intervention. (At the time it was unknown that at least three of Bush’s top aides were involved in the control effort to protect Renzi’s reputation and re-election chances).
In his interview with Waas, Charlton said he hoped Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor investigating the U.S Attorney firings, also would investigate the Bush White House’s damage control efforts on Renzi. “”It is my understanding that the new information and documents are almost certainly in the possession of the U.S. Attorney [Dannehy] and I expect that she will take the appropriate next steps,” Charlton told Waas.