Political adviser Karl Rove and other officials inside George W. Bush's White House pushed for the firing of a key federal prosecutor because he wasn't cooperating with Republican plans for indicting Democrats and their allies before the 2006 election, according to internal documents and depositions.
The evidence was released Tuesday and turned over to a special prosecutor by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers. It contradicts claims by Rove and other senior Bush administration officials that the White House played only a minimal role in the firing of David Iglesias and eight other US attorneys who were deemed by a Justice Department official as not "loyal Bushies."
In a recent interview with The New York Times and The Washington Post, Rove downplayed his role in the firings, saying he only acted as a "conduit" for complaints that Republican Party officials and GOP lawmakers sent to him about the federal prosecutors. The documents tell a different story.
The documents reveal that Rove, his White House aides and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers actively participated in the decision to oust New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias because Republicans had wanted him to bring charges against Democrats regarding alleged voter fraud and other issues. Iglesias refused to do that.
According to Miers's closed-door testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, a "very agitated" Rove phoned her from New Mexico, apparently in September 2006, and told her that Iglesias was "a serious problem and he wanted something done about it."
At the time of the phone call, Rove had just met with New Mexico Republican Party officials angry at Iglesias, who was refusing to proceed with voter fraud cases because he felt the evidence was weak and because pre-election indictments would violate Justice Department guidelines.
Miers said she responded to Rove's call by getting on the phone to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and passing along the message that Rove "is getting lots of complaints." Miers added, "it was a problem." About one month later, Iglesias was added to the list of US attorneys to be removed.
But the documents show that White House dissatisfaction with Iglesias over his resistance to bringing politically motivated cases against Democrats had been building for more than a year. On June 28, 2005, Scott Jennings, one of Rove's aides, sent an e-mail to Tim Griffin, another Rove aide, asking what could be done to remove Iglesias.
"I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY," Jennings wrote, complaining that "Iglesias has done nothing" on prosecuting voter fraud cases and adding: "We're getting killed out there."
In a statement on Tuesday of this week, accompanying the release of more than 5,000 pages of documents - including transcripts of the recent interviews with Rove and Miers - Conyers said the revelations warrant further inspection by special prosecutor Nora Dannehy, who has spent nearly a year conducting a criminal probe into the firings.
"After all the delay and despite all the obfuscation, lies, and spin, this basic truth can no longer be denied: Karl Rove and his cohorts at the Bush White House were the driving force behind several of these firings, which were done for improper reasons," Conyers said.
A Justice Department watchdog report concluded last year that a majority of the prosecutor firings were politically motivated. The US attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, was pushed out, so Rove's aide, Tim Griffin, could be given the job. But - in the face of the growing scandal - Griffin bowed out.
For months, Rove and Miers had dodged Congressional subpoenas seeking their testimony in the matter, citing George W. Bush's broad claims of executive privilege. But the Obama administration brokered a deal that had Rove and Miers testify behind closed doors.
Besides the Bush White House pressure for ousting Iglesias, powerful New Mexico Republicans also weighed in.
In October 2006, a month before the midterm elections that cost Republicans control of Congress, an e-mail chain started by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico) faulted Iglesias for not using his office in a manner that would help Wilson in her reelection campaign.