The Rovian Theory

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, March 23, 2007; 1:50 PM

Why are President Bush's Democratic critics so focused on getting White House political guru Karl Rove's testimony regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys?

Because based on Rove's history, the whole thing may well have been his idea -- and may be even more complicated than it initially appeared.

Rovian theory suggests the following: The eight U.S. attorneys were fired not only to purge the Justice Department of some prosecutors who were insufficiently willing to use the power of their offices to attack Democrats and protect Republicans --- but also to install favored people who wouldn't have such scruples. And, thanks to a provision snuck into law by a Bush administration henchman (who has since been granted a job as -- you guessed it -- a U.S. attorney) there would be none of those pesky safeguards to prevent those jobs going to unqualified hacks.

Or, as White House Watch reader Charles Posner wrote to me in an e-mail yesterday: "Dan - I think everyone is looking at the Justice Dept. scandal form the wrong end - it's not the firing, but the hiring that's the crux of the issue. Rove has a plan and a list. The plan is to install partisans in the prosecutors' office in order to target Democratic congressmen. Of course, Rove can hand pick each prosecutor without Congress's involvement as allowed by the secret provisions of the Patriot Act. Now, where's his list?"

The Smoking Gun?

Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post: "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. . . .

"Rove and Harriet Miers, then the White House counsel, were keenly interested in putting [Tim Griffin, a Rove aide and longtime GOP operative,] in the position, e-mails reveal. . . .

"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. . . .

"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."

The Cummins case also suggests that Bush himself, contrary to Tony Snow's insistence yesterday, may indeed have been a party at least to this one firing.

"By July 25, a White House aide wrote to Sampson to ask whether she could begin trying to win over [Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark] Pryor. 'Is that a problem since he has not yet been nominated for U.S. attorney?' the aide wrote, referring to Griffin.

"'If the president has already approved Griffin, then part of our "consultation" (to meet the "advice and consent" requirements of Constitution) would be to tell them we were going to start a BI on Griffin,' Sampson replied six minutes later, using shorthand for a background investigation. 'I assume this has already happened.'"

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