Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The House Judiciary Committee releases the Rove/Miers interviews related to the U.S. Attorney firings (with some excerpts from the Miers testimony)

Washington D.C.
--And so, we finally have a window, a real window, into what was going on at the DOJ during the time leading-up to the U.S. Attorney firings in that culminated in December 2006.

The House Judiciary Committee has today released what several scholars and pundits were saying would never see the light of day: the transcripts of the interviews with Bush II political operative and adviser Karl Rove and former Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Counsel (the president's legal adviser until early 2007), as well as emails and other documents and materials relating to what appears to be politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys, thus endangering their abilities to enforce the law correctly without undue or illegal political influence and/or obstruction through a general abuse of office.

Some highlights of the Miers testimony from June of this year:

(Beginning P.7) ...Q Yes, and also prior to that time. Let me -- why don't I start out asking you, before your work in the White House in any capacity, did you have any role in the selection of U.S. Attorneys or in the discharge of U.S. Attorneys?

A Not that I recall. (pg. 8) ...

(P.14) ...Q Now, there could be inappropriate reasons why a U.S. Attorney would be let go, as well, right?

A Yes.

Q If the Department of Justice were to recommend removal of the U.S. Attorney for a political partisan purpose, that would be an inappropriate basis for removal, right?

A I don't know what that term means. U.S. Attorneys are, by their nature, political.

Q Well, would you find it proper to remove a U.S. Attorney to stop him from prosecuting a friend of the President?

A I would not expect the Department to recommend removal for the U.S. Attorney doing his or her job. And if his or her job was investigating someone and there was an effort to cause that 15 person to step down because of that reason, I would view that as inappropriate.

Q So if the Department of Justice were recommending a U.S. Attorney be forced to resign because he was investigating a friend of the President, that would be an inappropriate reason for the Department to recommend his removal?

A If the reason was to interfere with a prosecutor's ongoing investigation of a particular matter, I would consider that inappropriate.

Q And, along those lines, if a U.S. Attorney refused to prosecute a political opponent of the President, that would also be an inappropriate reason to remove them?

A If the reason for a recommendation to ask a person to step down or to take action against the person was to cause them to take action that was inappropriate, then, yes, I would consider that not something that should happen.

Q Well, I just wanted to be very clear on this. If a U.S. Attorney is asked to resign because he refused to prosecute an opponent of the President, that would be improper, wouldn't it?

A If it was to cause the U.S. Attorney to take some action that the U.S. Attorney and others believed to be appropriate -- or inappropriate, then I would consider that something that should not happen. ...

P.16) ...Q And if, by the same token, a prosecutor refuses to bring a meritless prosecution against an opponent to the President, that would be improper also, right?

A If someone is asked to step down because they weren't bringing something that they, in good faith, thought they shouldn't and the examination concluded that that was a legitimate 17 position, then I would not expect them to be asked to step down.

Q Let me ask you also about the timing of prosecutions. Would it be improper to remove a U.S. Attorney because that U.S. Attorney failed to bring a prosecution that would aid a candidate during election time?

A It would be inappropriate to interfere one way or the other, either by asking somebody to bring an action they shouldn't bring or to not bring an action that they should, in both instances it would be inappropriate.

Q And particularly so if it was done with a design to influence an election?

A If that was the purpose, then I would think it would be inappropriate to attempt to influence an election.

Q Are there circumstances in which it would be proper to remove a U.S. Attorney based on purely partisan political considerations? A I would have difficulty answering that question.

Q Would it be proper to remove a U.S. Attorney because he refused to use his office to assist Republican candidates for elective office?

A If the sole purpose of asking someone to leave or to step down is to influence an election or do something the individual thought shouldn't be done, and the examination indicates that is correct, or to not do something, I think any of those things would have been inappropriate. ...

(P. 18) ...Q Would it be appropriate to remove a U.S. Attorney simply because one of the President's political allies or supporters has asked that U.S. Attorney to be removed?

A That would depend on the circumstances.

Q If the sole reason that the President removes a U.S. Attorney is because a supporter asked, would that be appropriate?

A U.S. Attorneys are serving at the pleasure of the President. And so, if anything is presented to him, then he has the ability to remove that person. ...

(P.21) ...Q Under what circumstances do you think it would be appropriate for the origination of the idea to remove a U.S. Attorney to come from the White House?

A I would think that would be perfectly appropriate from any other source. ...

(P. 27) ...Q Well, let's say you had a U.S. Attorney who refused to bring meritless cases.

A Well, you can stop right there. No one is going to condone bringing meritless cases.

Q And so, removing them for the failure to bring meritless cases would be an inappropriate reason to remove them?

A I believe we have already covered that. And I said you should not ask someone to leave because they won't bring a meritless case. ...

(P.38) ...Q And what about the Office of Political Affairs' role in the decision to let U.S. Attorneys go. What role did they play in 39 the process?

A I would say providing information.

Q And what type of information would they provide?

A Whatever they had in any particular situation. And if they had any, I would think many times they would not, but if they had any they may well have let their views be known. And in fact, and I apologize for not thinking about this at the time, someone from that office frequently attended the Judicial Selection Committee. So they were always there to provide the political sense with respect to the environment in any particular state.

Q And who was it from the Office of Political Affairs that attended the JSC meetings?

A Sometimes Karl Rove himself participated, but he may have had on his deputy chief of staff hat. But the Office of Political Affairs reported to him, so he could have been there. I don't really have a recollection of Sara Taylor being there, but she would have been logical. I remember Scott Jennings being there.

Q Do you recall any of the JSC meetings where it was clear Mr. Rove attended for the specific purpose that a U.S. Attorney removal was the issue to be discussed?

A I don't have a recollection of that.

Q Do you recall any case where the suggestion for the removal of a particular U.S. Attorney originated in the Office of Political Affairs rather than the Department of Justice? 40

A I think that's a good question. And I know that, for example, with respect to Mr. Iglesias that there were comments made about him and his performance. And those comments certainly could have been made at a Judicial Selection Committee meeting, but I don't recall it.

Q And did you raise the case of Mr. Iglesias because the first suggestion that he be considered for removal came from the Office of Political Affairs rather than the Department of Justice?

A I don't know whether it did or not come from the Department of Justice or whether that was just one more voice if, in fact, it happened. But I don't really know who came up with the idea. But certainly there were comments about Mr. Iglesias coming from the political office, or the deputy chief of staff for that matter. ...

(P. 41) ...Q But it was a call that Mr. Rove originated, you didn't call him? A Well, unless I called him back. But, yeah, he instigated the call. 42

Q And tell us the best you can about what you recall what Mr. Rove had to say when he called?

A My best recollection is that he was very agitated about the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. I don't know that I knew the gentleman's name at that time.

Q And what did he tell you about the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico?

A That he was getting barraged by a lot of complaints about the U.S. Attorney and his not doing his job.

Q And who were the complaints coming from?

A People that he was in contact with, which I assumed, of course, and he may have said, were political people that were active in New Mexico.

Q These are Republican Party activists?

A They were the people that he would have been interfacing with as political leadership of the State, is my assumption.

Q And who would that have been?

A I have no idea.

Q Would they have been Republican Party activists?

A All I can tell you is that Karl was reporting multiple people complaining about Mr. Iglesias.

Q And did he identify any of the people who were complaining to him about Mr. Iglesias?

A I don't recall that.

Q Did he tell you what they were complaining about? 43

A That he wasn't doing his job. I do recall that.

Q Do you recall what specifically the complaints were that he wasn't doing his job?

A I don't recall the specifics of what he was saying.

Q Did Mr. Rove raise with you complaints about voter fraud prosecutions?

A That's my best recollection, that he did.

Q And what did he say about that?

A I don't know what he said. I know it's my impression that he talked about the complaints that the guy wouldn't do his job. And I believe he mentioned voter fraud.

Q What else do you recall that Mr. Rove said about the complaints, if anything?

A I'm giving you all the information that I can about that call. That's my best recollection that that happened.

Q And you said Mr. Rove was agitated. What led you to believe that he was agitated?

A He was just upset. I remember his being upset.

Q Was it the language he used or was it the tone of his voice that told you he was upset?

A I can't tell you. It's my recollection that he was upset. And how that was conveyed to me I can't tell you.

Q Did Mr. Rove tell you that he wanted the U.S. Attorney gone?

A I don't have that specific recollection. And I'm under 44 oath and I'm not going to swear to something coming out of his mouth that I just can't remember. The clear import was that he was upset with how this individual was performing.

Q And was the clear import also that he wanted him removed from his position?

A He was getting complaints about the guy. And he wanted to express, I think, and this is my general sense about the New Mexico situation, that there were complaints about how he was performing.

Q Ms. Miers, wasn't the clear import of his conversation with you that he wanted the U.S. Attorney removed from office?

A I can't say with certainty that he ever used that language. He may well have. I don't recall it.

Q Well, I'm not asking about specific language, but you were able to tell us the clear import of part of his conversation was that the U.S. Attorney was not doing his job and he was getting an earful?

A That's correct.

Q If Mr. Rove communicated to you that he wanted a U.S. Attorney replaced, you would recall that, right?

A Not necessarily.

Q Well, in this case did Mr. Rove communicate to you in whatever language he used that he wanted this U.S. Attorney removed?

A I can't put those words in his mouth. 45

Q I'm not using any specific words. But when you hung up with the -- when you hung up the phone call with Mr. Rove, was it clear to you that he wanted this U.S. Attorney removed?

A It was clear to me that he felt like he had a serious problem and that he wanted something done about it. And whether he said, and the answer is ask the guy to be removed, I can't -- I don't recall that, I just don't recall it.

Q But you do recall he wanted something done about it? A Yes, sir. I think he was calling for that purpose.

Q And he may have asked you, or he may have told you that he wanted the U.S. Attorney removed?

A That's speculation. And I can't put those exact words in his mouth. I mean, he was complaining about the guy.

Q The clear import was that he wanted something done about it, right?

A Yes, sir. That was his purpose in calling me.

Q And at this point, you can't rule out whether he asked that he be removed from office?

A I can't swear that he did or did not say that. Q So he may have? A I can't swear one way or the other.

Q So he may have asked for him to be removed, you just can't recall?

A I don't recall his using words like I want him fired or words of similar import. I just don't have that recollection. 46

Could he have said that, I can't rule it out. I probably should say that he may have said can't we get rid of this guy or something like that.

Q And do you recall what your response would have been?

A I don't recall him saying even that, so I certainly don't recall my response.

Q But he may have said that?

A I can't rule it out.

Q If Mr. Rove wanted him removed, what would the next step have been?

A If he had said that he wanted us to consider removing the guy, then I would have relayed that along with whatever else I believe I called Paul McNulty about. Because my belief is that I called Paul McNulty and reported this situation.

Q So at some point after your conversation with Mr. Rove, you called Mr. McNulty at the Justice Department?

A That's my belief. That I took whatever information he gave me and I called Paul and gave it to him. ...

Not a pretty picture at all, and these are just excerpts. I'm assuming Rove's transcript has some relevant material but that it's generally a lot of skirting around his culpability/guilt in the affair. And yes, we can expect them to protect the president at all costs...unless, perhaps, it means that they're going to to go to prison.

Keep in mind that this woman was nominated for the Supreme Court. Now we know why she declined.

The House Judiciary Committe's Rove/Miers interviews and materials: http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/issues_WHInterviews.html