Lawyers for indicted ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) assert that documents released earlier this month by the House Judiciary Committee show the Justice Department unlawfully revealed information about him in 2006, Politico reported last night.
The House Judiciary Committee released more than 5,000 pages of documents regarding the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge August 11. Renzi’s attorneys claim that a panel interview with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and some of the e-mails released by the committee “strongly suggest that officials in the highest levels of the Justice Department leaked grand jury material and that those leaks were done at the behest of White House officials for improper political purposes,” according to a motion filed Wednesday and obtained by Politico.
Renzi, who served in Congress from 2003 to 2009, was indicted in February 2008 on a number of federal corruption charges.
His attorneys have said before that articles published in the Arizona Republic only weeks before the 2006 election included information unlawfully disclosed by DOJ about the Renzi probe, according to Politico. Now, the Renzi legal team is using an Oct. 24, 2006 e-mail exchange between Miers and Bush Political Affairs Deputy Director Scott Jennings about the leak to bolster their argument, Politico said.
Miers told Jennings that she had contacted former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to find out why a DOJ official had disclosed that Renzi was being probed, according to Politico.
Shortly after the e-mail exchange, an unnamed DOJ official told the Arizona Republic that the Renzi probe was “not a well-developed investigation, by any means.” Read The Republic article here.
The DOJ official said that The Republic should “be careful” in its coverage of the investigation.
“I can confirm to you a very early investigation,” the DOJ official told the newspaper. “But I want to caution you not to chop this guy’s [Renzi] head off.”
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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.
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The House Judiciary Committee released today the transcripts from interviews it had with former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and ex-White House Counsel Harriet Miers along with more than 5,400 pages of Bush White House documents. Rove and Miers testified before the panel about the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.
Read the transcripts and documents here.
Here’s the news release from the office of House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-Mich.)
House Judiciary Committee Releases Rove and Miers Interview Transcripts and Over 5,400 Pages of Bush White House Documents
Conyers: White House “Driving Force” Behind US Attorney Firings
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) today released over 700 pages of on-the-record interview transcripts of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers on the US Attorney firings and the Bush Administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice. Conyers also released over 5,400 pages of Bush White House and Republican National Committee emails on these subjects.
The released materials reveal that White House officials were deeply involved in the US Attorney firings and the Administration made a concerted effort to hide that fact from the American people. “After all the delay and despite all the obfuscation, lies, and spin,” Conyers said, “this basic truth can no longer be denied: Karl Rove and his cohorts at the Bush White House were the driving force behind several of these firings, which were done for improper reasons. Under the Bush regime, honest and well-performing US Attorneys were fired for petty patronage, political horsetrading and, in the most egregious case of political abuse of the US Attorney corps – that of US Attorney Iglesias – because he refused to use his office to help Republicans win elections. When Mr. Iglesias said his firing was a ‘political fragging,’ he was right.”
Key new facts revealed in the materials released today include:
• 2005 White House “Decision” to fire David Iglesias – It has previously been known that New Mexico Republicans pressed for Iglesias to be removed because they did not like his decisions on vote fraud cases. New White House documents show that Rove and his office were involved in this effort no later than May 2005 (months earlier than previously known) - for example, in May and June 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent emails to Tim Griffin (also in Rove’s office) asking “what else I can do to move this process forward” and stressing that “I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY.” In June 2005, Harriet Miers emailed that a “decision” had been made to replace Iglesias. At this time, DOJ gave Iglesias top rankings, so this decision was clearly not just the result of the White House following the Department’s lead as Rove and Miers have maintained.
• Iglesias criticized by Rove aide for not “doing his job on” Democratic Congressional Candidate Patricia Madrid – An October 2006 email chain begun by Representative Heather Wilson criticized David Iglesias for not bringing politically useful public corruption prosecutions in the run up to the 2006 elections. Scott Jennings forwarded Wilson’s email to Karl Rove and complained that Iglesias had been “shy about doing his job on Madrid,” Wilson’s opponent in the 2006 Congressional race. Just weeks after this email, Iglesias’ name was placed on the final firing list.
• An “agitated” Rove pressed Harriet Miers to do something about Iglesias just weeks before Iglesias was placed on the removal list – Karl Rove phoned Harriet Miers during a visit to New Mexico in September 2006 – according to Miers’ testimony, Rove was “agitated” and told her that Iglesias was “a serious problem and he wanted something done about it.”
• Senator Domenici personally asked Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to have Iglesias replaced – In October 2006, Senator Domenici stepped up his campaign to have Iglesias replaced. According to White House phone logs and emails, as well as Rove’s own testimony, Domenici spoke with President Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten about Iglesias on October 5, 2022, and during October 2006, Domenici or his staff spoke with Karl Rove at least 4 times.
• Todd Graves removed in Rove-approved deal with Republican Senator – Kansas City US Attorney Todd Graves was removed as part of a White House-brokered deal with US Senator Kit Bond. In exchange for the Administration firing Graves, Senator Bond agreed to lift his hold on an Arkansas judge nominated to the Eighth Circuit federal appeals court. A White House email stated that “Karl is fine” with the proposal.
• Miers obtained favorable statement on Rick Renzi in violation of DOJ policy – When rumors of the FBI investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi surfaced in October, 2006, one of Rove’s subordinates contacted Harriet Miers, who called Deputy Attorney General McNulty seeking a possible statement that would have “vindicated” Renzi. Even though this was contrary to standard DOJ policy, such a statement was issued several days later.
“I have provided a copy of the materials released today to special U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy to assist in her effort to determine whether federal criminal charges are appropriate and to pursue any such charges,” said Conyers. “In the meantime, the Committee has honored its pledge to get on-the-record statements from Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, as well as the relevant White House documents, and is pleased to make this unprecedented collection of Bush Administration materials directly available to the American people by posting it online.
“I am especially grateful to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the House Democratic leadership for their strong and unwavering support of this investigation, including the citations for contempt of Congress issued by the House in 2008. I also thank all members who voted in support of those citations and authorized the historic litigation that was instrumental in bringing us to this point. Today’s release marks a powerful victory for the rule of law, and should be celebrated by all who cherish our constitutional system of separation of powers and open, transparent government.”
An electronic copy of the materials released can be found on the Committee’s website at https://judiciary.house.gov/issues/issues_WHInterviews.html. The release is pursuant to an agreement reached in March 2009 between the Committee and the former Bush Administration, with the assistance of the Obama Administration, to resolve the Committee’s lawsuit and the contempt citations issued by the Judiciary Committee and the full House of Representatives with respect to the refusal of the Bush Administration to produce subpoenaed White House documents or permit the testimony of former White House officials Karl Rove and Harriet Miers on the U.S. Attorney firings.
1 May 2,2005, email from Scott Jennings to Tim Griffin (HJC 00173); June 9,2005, email from Harriet Miers to Leslie Fahrenkopf (HJC 00177); June 28, 2005, email from Scott Jennings to Tim Griffin (HJC 00180).
2 October 15, 2006, email chain including Heather Wilson, Steve Bell, Scott Jennings, Karl Rove and others (HJC 00340-41).
3 Miers Interview Transcript at 40-48.
4 Josh Bolten phone log (HJC 00489); October 10, 2006, email from Scott Jennings to Karl Rove (HJC 00334); Karl Rove phone log (HJC 00490); Rove Interview Transcript 123-24.
5 December 21, 2005, email from Richard Klingler to Harriet Miers (HJC 00194-A).
6 October 24, 2006, email from Harriet Miers to Scott Jennings (HJC 00344-45).
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Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove played a bigger part in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge than previously known, The Washington Post reported this afternoon.
E-mails obtained by The Post give new insight into the former Bush official’s role in the purge. Two of the e-mails focus on then-New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and Timothy Griffin, who replaced then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Bud Cummins.
In an October 2006 e-mail, White House political affairs aide Scott Jennings informed Rove that then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and his chief of staff, Steve Bell, wanted Iglesias out of office.
“I received a call from Steve Bell tonight. . . . Last week Sen. Domenici reached the chief of staff and asked that we remove the U.S. Atty. Steve wanted to make sure we all understood that they couldn’t be more serious about this request,” said the Jennings e-mail obtained by The Post.
Rove told The Post he was only a messenger. The former Bush official said he had “no recollection” of how he learned that Iglesias was fired.
“Yes, I was a recipient of complaints, and I passed them on to the counsel’s office to be passed onto Justice,” Rove told The Post.
In a February 2005 e-mail, Rove told deputy Sara Taylor that he wanted to replace a U.S. Attorney with his protege, Griffin.
“Give him options. Keep pushing for Justice and let him decide. I want him on the team,” said the Rove e-mail obtained by The Post.
Then, White House Counsel Harriet Miers contacted Taylor a month later.
“Sara, Karl asked me to forward you a list of locations where we may consider replacing the USAs…,” said the Miers e-mail obtained by The Post.
Rove personally suggested that Griffin should replace Cummins, according to The Post.
Assistant U.S. attorney Nora R. Dannehy and the House Judiciary Committee are investigating the purge. Today, the former White House deputy chief of staff wrapped up the second day of closed-door House hearings about the U.S. Attorney purge, The Post said. A transcript of the hearings could be made public in August, according to The Post.
“I certainly can confirm that Karl answered all of the committee’s questions fully and truthfully,” Rove attorney Robert Luskin told The Post. “His answers should put to rest any suspicion that he acted improperly.”
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Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove testified before House Judiciary Committee attorneys today, Politico reported this evening.
House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) wouldn’t tell Politico what was said during the nearly nine hour deposition that included several breaks.
We previously reported that Rove would testify about the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge in the closed-door hearing. Former Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers already testified before the panel about the firings.
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House Judiciary Committee lawyer Elliot Mincberg said today at a forum on prosecution misconduct that Attorney General Eric Holder is considering prosecuting former Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division Bradley Scholzman, The Blog of Legal Times reported Friday. Holder had previously said at his confirmation hearing he’d review a decision by the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s office not to prosecute Schlozman for allegedly lying in sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007 that he didn’t take political affiliation or ideology into account in DOJ personnel decisions.
We previously reported that a DOJ Inspector General report said Schlozman referred to liberal applicants for positions as “mold spores,” “commies” and “crazy pinkos.” The report concluded that he was “unsuitable for public service.”
Mincberg also said the House Judiciary Committee has obtained a “pretty good number of internal White House memos” as part of its probe into the U.S. Attorney firings of 2006, The BLT reported.
He said the memos provide more details on the firing of the nine U.S. Attorneys under the watch of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, according to The BLT. He added that the documents are confidential for now. But Mincberg said the closed-door testimonies of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Bush aide Karl Rove will be made public, according to The BLT. Miers met with the House Judiciary Committee this month. The panel has yet to say when it will meet with Rove.
“(The investigation) has already demonstrated, although it is not yet done, that there were clear improper political influence in the decisions being made by a Republican administration to fire Republican U.S. attorneys,” Mincberg said, according to The BLT.
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Yesterday, former Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers finally testified behind closed doors in front of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the U.S Attorney firings, reports FOXNews.com.
We reported in March that an agreement had been reached with the Judiciary Committee for Miers, as well as Karl Rove, to testify. Rove’s testimony is still to come.
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The New York Times has a terrific story today about the battles between the Justice Department and the White House in 2005 over legal authorization of torture. Reporters Scott Shane and David Johnston give a contrarian take on the roles of two of the “heroes” of that bitter internal debate - then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey and Acting Office of Legal Counsel head Dan Levin, who protested the methods — and puts one of the “villains, “Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Bradbury, in a more sympathetic light. The Times says Comey and Levin agreed the techniques were legal even though they strongly protested their use. Read the story here
What we found the most interesting, though, were the internal emails the Times obtained from Comey to his then-chief of staff, Chuck Rosenberg. (It’s our guess the leak has something to do with the long-delayed release of the Office of Professional Responsibility inquiry into the DOJ lawyers who authorized torture). The emails showed Comey warning repeatedly that while certain interrogation methods might be technically legal, they were wrong and disastrous as policy. Comey fretted about the terrible hit the DOJ as an institution could take as well.
In an April 27, 2022 email to Rosenberg, Comey referred to a favorite tactic of the Bush DOJ — keeping top officials in an “acting” capacity so they’d feel more vulnerable and thus be more pliable. At the time, there was immense pressure on Bradbury from then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s top lawyer, for the OLC to approve a reauthorization of certain torture techniques in 2005. Comey wrote:
“I have previously expressed my worry that having Steve as “Acting”- and wanting the job — would make him susceptible to just this kind of pressure.”
In an April 28 email to Rosenberg, Comey said he strongly warned Ted Ullyot, a former White House lawyer then serving as Gonzales’s chief of staff, about the political dangers the AG faced if he succumbed to the pressure from the Vice President and White House.
“I told him the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the [expletive] hit the fan. It would be Alberto Gonzales in the bull’s-eye. I told him it was my job to protect the department and the A.G. and that I could not agree to this because it was wrong. I told him it could be made right in a week, which was a blink of an eye, and that nobody would understand at a hearing three years from now why we didn’t take that week.”
Comey also relayed a conversation he’d had with Patrick Philbin, an OLC lawyer who was part of the “principled conservative” group that tried to block the flawed legal analysis. Comey said he’d lamented to Philbin that it was fruitless to try speaking directly again to Gonzales, and expressed dismay that Ullyot had no interest in protecting Gonzales the way former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s long-time loyal chief of staff, David Ayers, would have protected Ashcroft.
“I told him I didn’t see a need, given that I had just said things to his chief of staff [Ullyot] that would have lit the prior AG’s COS’s hair on fire. He pointed out that [David] Ayers would never allow this and never allow the AG to be in such jeopardy.” Comey added that the whole mess ”leaves me feeling sad for the Department and the AG.”
“Once again, Patrick Philbin has been the voice of intellectual honesty, and rigor and principle. The world will never know what a hero that young man is. ….. People may think it strange to hear me say I miss John Ashcroft, but as intimidated as he could be by the WH, when it came to crunch time, he stood up, even from an intensive care hospital bed. That backbone is gone.” …
“Please stay in touch with Pat on this. He has been very strong and principled, as usual, but they will put a lot of pressure on him in my absence.”
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The House Judiciary Committee has struck a deal with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers for testimony about the U.S. Attorney firings. The former Bush White House officials will give depositions to the panel, and may be called for public testimony at a later date. The committee may also be allowed to question former deputy White House counsel William Kelley. Keith Perrine at Congressional Quarterly writes:
The deal appears to defuse a major clash between Congress and Bush over the scope of executive privilege that has also enmeshed President Obama. On balance, it is a win for the committee, which will get a lot of what it has sought throughout a nearly two-year battle.
Rove will also answer questions about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat whose prosecution may have been politically motivated. And the panel will gain access to Bush White House documents it had been denied relating to the firings.
The Obama Justice Department has asked for more time to file a brief in an appeals case that pits the House Judiciary Committee against former Bush White House oficials Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, Keith Perine at CQ reports.
The brief was due Feb. 18; the government has asked for an extension until March 4. Perine says this is a sign that negotiations are taking place to settle the case out of court. The case is an important test of Bush’s broad and controversial executive privilege claims.
Miers, a former White House counsel; and Bolton, the former White House chief of staff, refused to comply with subpoenas from the committee last year. The panel sought documents and, in Miers’ case, testimony in an investigation into Bush administration politicization of DOJ. The House sued and won at the district court. The government appealed. In snubbing the committee, Miers and Bolton said their work product was protected because they were White House staffers. But courts have typically interpreted executive privilege to protect only direct communications with the president.