A March 23 article about the dismissal of the U.S. attorney in Little Rock incorrectly said that D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, wrote in a June 13, 2006, e-mail to Gonzales's senior counsel, Monica Goodling, that "we are now executing this plan." In fact, Goodling wrote the e-mail to Sampson.
E-Mails Show Machinations to Replace Prosecutor
Friday, March 23, 2007
Two months before Bud Cummins was fired as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, a protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove was maneuvering with the Justice Department to take his place.
Last April, Tim Griffin, a Rove aide and longtime GOP operative, sent the attorney general's chief of staff a flattering letter about himself written by Cummins, the prosecutor he was trying to replace, internal e-mails released this week show. Rove and Harriet Miers, then the White House counsel, were keenly interested in putting him in the position, e-mails reveal.
New documents also show that Justice and White House officials were preparing for President Bush's approval of the appointment as early as last summer, five months before Griffin took the job.
The unusual appointment of Griffin, now serving as the interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock, has been one of the central issues in the Justice Department's firing of eight U.S. attorneys, which led to this week's constitutional showdown between Congress and the White House over the testimony of some of Bush's closest advisers.
Some of the thousands of pages of e-mails released this week underscore the extraordinary planning and effort, at the highest levels of the Justice Department and White House, to secure Griffin a job running one of the smaller U.S. attorney's offices in the country.
The e-mails show how D. Kyle Sampson, then the attorney general's chief of staff, and other Justice officials prepared to use a change in federal law to bypass input from Arkansas' two Democratic senators, who had expressed doubts about placing a former Republican National Committee operative in charge of a U.S. attorney's office. The evidence runs contrary to assurances from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that no such move had been planned.
"This was a very loyal soldier to the Republicans and the Bush administration, and they wanted to reward him," said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). "They had every right to do this, but it's the way they handled it, and the way they tried to cover their tracks and mislead Congress, that has turned this into a fiasco for them."
Griffin declined to comment yesterday but said in a previous interview that he was being unfairly maligned by Democrats. He has announced that he will not seek Senate confirmation to become Little Rock's chief federal prosecutor but will remain until a replacement is found.
In political circles, Griffin is widely considered an aggressive and accomplished Republican political operative. He was research director at the RNC during Bush's 2004 campaign, and he went to work for Rove at the White House in 2005.
Administration officials and many Republicans say that regardless of politics, Griffin has the credentials to be U.S. attorney.
"He's more qualified to hold that position than most of the people who came to that job in the first term," said Mark Corallo, who worked as the Justice Department's communication director when John D. Ashcroft was attorney general. "How can anyone blame Karl Rove for weighing in on behalf of someone who worked for him who happens to be thoroughly qualified for the job?"
Griffin, raised in Magnolia, Ark., is a Tulane University Law School graduate who studied at Oxford and has spent 10 years as a prosecutor in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Army Reserve. His return to Little Rock came after a stint in Iraq.