Rove’s Spotty Record Under Oath | Not Every Deputy Attorney General Lacks Integrity

Going After Rove—McClatchy newspaper reporters Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev’s May 3 syndicated story provides another justification for Congress to subpoena Karl Rove, the White House Senior Advisor. Rove was already linked to the plan to fire U.S. Attorneys who weren’t “loyal Bushies.” The McClatchy reporters placed Rove in the middle of what appears to be a cover-up of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s bungled attempts at partisan personnel management. The reporters described a March 5 White House meeting with Deputy AG William Moschella, who was scheduled to testify before Congress the following day. Rove told Moschella that the Justice Department’s political appointees should get their stories straight before testifying under oath.

Rove might not be the best coach. When Rove was a Republican consultant in Texas in the 1980s, he connected with an FBI agent named Greg Rampton—initially when Rampton investigated Rove’s claim that someone had placed an electronic listening device in his office. The local DA’s investigators concluded that Rove had bugged his own office as a political stunt. Rove and Rampton remained in contact while Rampton investigated the fund-raising of Democrats elected to statewide office in Texas—though no one ever explained why an FBI agent investigating the state’s top Democrats was working with a Republican political consultant.

Several years later, Rove was appointed to the board of directors of a state university. He was testifying before the Senate Nominations Committee in 1991 when an East Texas Democrat asked if he knew Rampton. Rove parsed his response: “Ah, senator, it depends. Would you define ‘know’ for me? Ah, I know I would not recognize Greg if he walked in the door. We have talked on the phone . . . a number of times. And he has visited me in my office once or twice.”

During Bush’s first term as governor, Rove was subpoenaed after Governor Bush tried to bust the state’s $17 billion legal settlement with the big five tobacco companies. Bush was furious because five Democratic law firms the Democratic Attorney General hired to represent the state in the tobacco litigation were collecting more than $3 billion in legal fees and expenses. Under oath Rove was grilled by attorneys representing the law firms. Chaffing and sputtering during the deposition, Rove was easily led into a lie about his conflicted role as a tobacco lobbyist and Bush’s political adviser. “He’s not temperamentally suited to be a good deponent,” said a trial attorney familiar with the tobacco case.

Gonzales Under the Gun—If Alberto Gonzales had any credibility left regarding his firing of eight U.S Attorneys, it was gone after his former deputy James B. Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Comey, who had supervised all the fired Attorneys while he was at the DOJ from 2003-2005, described all but one of them as talented, competent and hardworking. Daniel Bodgen of Las Vegas was “straight as a Nevada highway and a fired-up guy,” he said. Comey offered similar praise of seven of the eight U.S. Attorneys Gonzalez and his two young aides sent packing.

The difference between Comey and the Attorney General’s two deputies, D. Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, is integrity. And the fact that Comey served as a U.S. Attorney prosecuting terrorists, drug dealers, gun merchants, telecom executives and Martha Stewart. As a U.S. Attorney in Richmond in 2001 he impressed the president by securing fourteen indictments against the terrorists who had bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, when nineteen American soldiers were killed. Bush appointed Comey, a conservative Republican and avid defender of the Patriot Act, to serve as U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he again got high marks. He was a compromise choice for the number two spot at Justice, after Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected to the candidate proposed by New York Governor George Pataki.

Comey’s by-the-book approach at Main Justice didn’t serve the Bushies’ interests. When Bush’s first AG, John Ashcroft, recused himself from investigating claims that Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, had revealed the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, it was left to Comey to select a prosecutor. He chose his best friend, the U.S. Attorney from Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald. Ashcroft was conflicted out of the Valerie Plame case because Karl Rove was a possible target of the investigation, which ultimately resulted in the conviction of Libby. Ashcroft had in the past paid Rove $749,000 as a political consultant. In the Bush administration, all roads lead to Rove.