Democrats Seek Rove in Attorney Firings
Monday, March 12, 2007; 8:08 PM
WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats on Monday singled out presidential adviser Karl Rove for questioning about the firings of eight federal prosecutors and whether the dismissals were politically motivated.
The demands to question Rove signaled anew Democrats' shifting focus beyond the Justice Department and toward the White House, in the inquiry.
Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said he would seek to interview former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and deputy counsel William Kelly for insight on their roles, if any, in the firings.
Rove emerged as the Democrats' newest target after weekend news reports said the New Mexico Republican Party's chairman urged Rove to fire David Iglesias, then the state's U.S. attorney.
In a statement Monday, Conyers said stories about Rove's alleged link to Iglesias' dismissal "raise even more alarm bells for us."
"As a result, we would want to ensure that Karl Rove was one of the White House staff that we interview in connection with our investigation," said Conyers.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading his chamber's probe into the firings, said he also wants to question Rove.
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said the demands would be considered after lawmakers send letters requesting an interview. "If we receive such a request, we would consider it in the ordinary course and respond appropriately," Lawrimore said.
In an interview this weekend with The Associated Press, New Mexico GOP chairman Allen Weh said Iglesias' "termination had already occurred" by the time he spoke with Rove at a holiday party last December. But Weh made no secret of his dissatisfaction with Iglesias, in part from the prosecutor's failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation.
The White House has said Rove wasn't involved in the firings, but did alert Miers to complaints about Iglesias. It was not immediately clear whether Rove also told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the complaints.
Justice Department officials have said the decision to fire the eight prosecutors began in the office of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, not in the White House. Last week, Rove called the two-month controversy "a very big attempt by some in the Congress to make a political stink about it."
Schumer called it "almost unheard of" for a federal prosecutor with favorable reviews to be fired after a top presidential adviser like Rove received complaints about his performance.
"The more we learn, the more it seems that people at high levels in the White House have been involved in the U.S. attorney purge," Schumer said Monday.