WASHINGTON – Former White House political adviser Karl Rove played a central role in the ouster of a U.S. attorney in New Mexico, one of nine prosecutors fired in a scandal in 2006 over political interference with the Justice Department, according to transcripts of closed-door testimony released Tuesday.
Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was “very agitated” over U.S. Attorney David Iglesias “and wanted something done about it.”
The committee released more than 5,400 pages of White House and Republican National Committee e-mails, along with transcripts of closed-door testimony by Miers and Rove. Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the documents reveal that White House political officials were deeply involved in the firing of Iglesias and the other U.S. attorneys.
The documents show that staffers in Rove’s office were actively seeking to have Iglesias removed after Republican figures in New Mexico complained that he was not pursuing voter fraud cases they wanted. In 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide saying, “I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY.”
Miers testified that Rove relayed to her complaints about Iglesias from political figures in New Mexico but added that she could not recall whether Rove told her specifically that the prosecutor should be fired.
“My best recollection is that he was very agitated about the U.S. attorney in New Mexico,” Miers testified. “It was clear to me that he felt like he had a serious problem and that he wanted something done about it.”
Rove’s aides kept him apprised of complaints about Iglesias in other e-mails released Tuesday by the committee.
Rove issued a statement Tuesday saying the documents “show politics played no role in the Bush administration’s removal of U.S. attorneys, that I never sought to influence the conduct of any prosecution, and that I played no role in deciding which U.S. attorneys were retained and which were replaced.”
He added, “Rather than relying on partisans selectively quoting testimony or excerpting e-mail messages, I urge anyone interested to review the documents in their entirety.”
A subsequent Justice Department inquiry into the firing of Iglesias and other U.S. attorneys concluded that political considerations played a part in as many as four of the dismissals. A political uproar led to a series of damaging revelations about the Bush administration’s political meddling with the Justice Department and the eventual resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Iglesias said in an interview Tuesday he was nauseated by the whole affair.
“It’s exactly what I feared. Over two years ago, I said that all roads lead to Rove,” Iglesias said. “I’ve said consistently that he was highly involved, and now the evidence is there.”
Iglesias said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the voter fraud cases that Republicans wanted.