Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Blaming It All On Sampson
The Justice Department admitted today that officials "may have provided inaccurate and incomplete information" to Congress about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and turned over new documents laying the blame for the inaccuracies on the attorney general's former chief of staff.
The release of 202 pages of new documents by Justice comes before scheduled testimony in the Senate tomorrow morning by D. Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
Sampson resigned March 12 after the discovery of records showing that the attorney firings, described for months as an internal Justice review, was started in the White House two years ago. Gonzales said Sampson quit because he failed to turn over relevant information to his colleagues, a point that Sampson disputes.
But Sampson's pushing back:
Sampson is expected to testify tomorrow that numerous other officials were aware he was coordinating the firings with the White House and that he decided to resign because he failed to see the political threat posed by the firings.
In a related story, Spikey Mikey Isikoff writes in NEWSWEEK that there may be a smoking gun tying Karl Rove to the purge:
March 28, 2007 - New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici’s chief of staff sent a cryptic thank-you note to Karl Rove just as the senator was recommending replacements for David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney in New Mexico, according to internal White House and Justice Department documents.
“Thanks for everything,” Domenici chief of staff Steve Bell wrote Rove and two other White House officials, including Rove’s political deputy, Scott Jennings, in a Jan. 8, 2007 e-mail that forwarded the name of a candidate to replace Iglesias.
Buried in Justice Department documents released two weeks ago, the Bell e-mail was not initially noticed by congressional investigators because it was sent to Rove’s political e-mail account—not his more clearly recognizable White House e-mail address.
It is not clear from the content of the e-mail what Bell was thanking Rove for. But the thank-you note is the first indication that Rove himself may have been involved in replacing Iglesias. It is the dismissal of Iglesias—fired after Domenici complained about his handling of a local corruption investigation—that has raised the most serious questions of political interference in the U.S. attorney controversy.
“This absolutely corroborates what I’ve been saying all along—this is a political matter, not a performance matter,” Iglesias said when a Newsweek reporter read him the e-mail today. “What is he thanking him [Rove] for? It’s thanking him for getting Dave out of the picture.”Asked about the e-mail today, and why Bell was thanking Rove, Domenici’s press secretary, Chris Gallegos said: “We’re not going to have anything to say about that e-mail.” He added that Bell “did not want to discuss a private communication.” White House press spokesman Tony Fratto said the e-mail was "interpreted" by the three White House officials who recevied it as a thank you for considering the names of Domenici's candidates for replacing Iglesias—not for their help in removing Iglesias. Did Rove in fact intervene to have Iglesias removed? Fratto replied: "We're not commenting on that" because of general White House policy not to talk about "internal White House communications."
Also, TPM finds a Kyle Sampson email that contradicts an earlier statement from Sampson that Karl Rove and Harriet Miers had no roles in the decision to appoint Rove's former aide, Tim Griffin, to replace purged U.S. Attorney Bud Cumins in Arkansas.
I bet Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer ask Sampson about that email tomorrow.
I also bet the pressure the White House is under to have both Rove and Miers testify under oath to the Congress gets heavier after tomorrow's testimony from Sampson.
It sure looks like Rove had a emphatic role in the purges of both Iglesias and Cumins.