New light has been shed on former White House political adviser Karl Rove's 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 their 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.
In a 2006 e-mail, Jennings told Rove that then Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., wanted Iglesias fired. "You are aware of the issues, I believe," Jennings said in the e-mail to Rove.
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."
Rove later told FOX News that Conyers' statements "are ludicrous for anybody who bothers to read the transcript. The transcript shows that all of these allegations about political prosecutions and my involvement supposedly in drafting the list of names of people to be retained or removed is absolutely ridiculous."
Rove said he had a responsibility to pass along to the proper authorities allegations that Iglesias was misusing his office.
"The charge was that the U.S. attorney in New Mexico was treating an indictment in a completely political fashion," he said. "That is something that ought to be reviewed by the proper authorities."
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.
Conyers said he provided a copy of the documents to acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy, who questioned Rove earlier this year to determine his precise role in politically tinged 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.
Rove, who was interviewed by the committee on July 7 and again July 30, has told reporters in recent interviews that he simply as a conduit for other Republicans' complaints about the job performance of specific U.S. attorneys.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the documents show no evidence of wrongdoing. "Democrats need to stop wasting taxpayers' time and money on political investigations that are nothing more than the politics of personal destruction," Smith said.