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Life Arts    H3'ed 7/12/09

Exclusive Interview with Investigative Reporter Jason Leopold

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Jason Leopold is editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, and the author of the national bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Welcome to OpEdNews, Jason. Karl Rove was finally brought before Rep. Conyers and the House panel to answer questions about possible political prosecutions. You've been covering this story, among others. How confident should we be that the truth will finally come out and justice will be served?

I don't think anyone should feel confident that the truth will come out given Karl Rove's penchant for being less than honest""and that's putting it mildly""over the years about the roles he has played in the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman and the firing of at least one U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias.

That Rove's testimony was conducted behind closed doors and given the fact that he and his attorney had the opportunity to look over White House documents that apparently formed the basis for the questions presented to him should give everyone pause. The process wasn't transparent. This was done as a way to avoid a legal battle and to accommodate Rove and the White House who did not want to go to court to challenge the prior administration's assertion of executive privilege.

A few days ago, former Alabama Governor (and Rove target) Don Siegelman is quoted in Zachary Roth's article for TPM as saying: "I have looked [Conyers] in the eye, and he has had discussions with me that have convinced me completely that he is 100% committed to this investigation." The rest of us are not so sanguine. We mostly feel flummoxed and outfoxed. Who's closer to the truth?

I think Don Siegelman has faith that Conyers will do the right thing and in a lot of ways he has to. His life is at stake here.

But those of us that have spent years covering John Conyers know he hasn't exactly taken real action despite his tough talk about inherent contempt, Bush's imperial presidency, etc. And that applies to the issues revolving around Karl Rove's role in this and other matters his committee spent years investigating. So I think the public and journalists covering this story are cautious about trusting Conyers. Because when it comes down to it, Conyers may have to take the type of action against Rove (if he finds that Rove was not truthful) that would be politically inconvenient and thus far Conyers has shown himself to be unwilling to do that.

So, we're back to this. Is there anything the public can do to push Conyers and the White House to do the right thing?

Well, if by the right thing you mean prosecution than no. But what people can do is demand that Conyers and the Judiciary Committee hold a public hearing where Rove is deposed and under oath. Additionally, the committee should make Rove's deposition transcript available and all White House documents, such as emails and memos, that the committee used to formulate their questions.

Believe it or not, I think seeing Rove testify under oath and in public before the Judiciary Committee would be quite a catharsis for some people. Keep in mind that of all the scandals Rove has been involved in during Bush's tenure we have never seen him testify publicly despite the issuance of numerous congressional subpoenas. So in a way, seeing lawmakers (hopefully) ask Rove some tough questions about these matters would certainly be one way in which the public can force Conyers and his committee to do the right thing so to speak.

Why do you think Conyers caved to Rove and the Bush administration?

I think Conyers actually gave into the Obama administration more than anything. The negotiations that resulted in Rove's testimony was brokered by the White House and Conyers and Judiciary Committee attorneys. The White House did not want to go to court to state whether it supported Bush's broad claims of executive privilege and that's what they would have had to do with regard to Rove's testimony and Harriet Miers testimony.

But why wouldn't the new administration want to go to court on executive privilege? Here we thought we were getting change and it sounds more like "same old same old". Please flesh this out for our readers.

Because that would force the Obama administration to take a position that, to be blunt, would be identical to arguments the Bush administration made, particularly on matters dealing with national security. If Obama's Justice Department went to court on the Rove issue, it would have forced the Obama administration to state its position on Bush's broad claims of executive privilege and set a legal precedent. I believe everyone was expecting that the Obama's DOJ to oppose Bush's claims of executive privilege but it started to appear that Obama was leaning toward upholding Bush's claims. I think to some extent we have seen Obama use the exact same arguments that Bush has used on matters dealing with national security and torture. Obama has already used the state secrets argument in several recent high profile cases and has gone further than Bush, in some instances.

But the Rove matter, like I said, would have set a precedent. And I think that Obama may in fact be inclined to use the very same executive privilege argument in the future and therefore brokering a deal with Conyers is in his best interest politically.

Andrew Kreig wrote in an article a few days ago, that despite the Obama landslide in November, 50% of all the US attorneys' offices are still manned by Bush appointees who were partisan enough to survive the purges. What's with that? And, where does the DoJ's firing of whistleblower Tamara Grimes fit into this picture?

I have not chased that story but Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor appointed last September to probe the US attorney firings is said to be wrapping up her investigation. Rove testified in that probe so to circle back to one of your earlier questions justice will be served, but it may not be in the form everyone is hoping for.

Anything else you'd like to point out to our readers, Jason?

That's it on my end.

Well, thanks for joining us, Jason. We look forward to more terrific reporting from you and the Public Record.

Jason Leopold is an investigative reporter and editor for the Public Record. He has won two Project Censored awards, for his coverage on Halliburton (2006) and the secret Schwarzenegger-Ken Lay/Enron connection (2004). Last year, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation recognized him for his series on the rise of Evangelical Christianity within the military.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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