WASHINGTON – At a time when he is under criminal investigation in the CIA leak case, Karl Rove stepped into the limelight Thursday night, praising failed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to an influential group of conservative lawyers.
"If you like every one of the 200 judges that we have sent forth to the U.S. Congress to be approved in the last three years, there hasn't been one of them who hasn't been researched, vetted, studied, analyzed or recommended by my friend Harriet Miers," the deputy White House chief of staff said in remarks to the Federalist Society.
Rove did not mention that Miers withdrew her nomination because of opposition from President Bush's conservative base.
In his 20-minute speech, Rove also took direct aim at four Democratic senators who have harshly criticized the White House in the CIA leak probe and have been staunch opponents of some of the Bush administration's judicial selections. The four are Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Rove suggested the four Democrats have met their match in the conservative agenda of the Federalist Society.
"Who would have thought that the powerful members of the world's most exclusive club would be so threatened by a movement of competent, principle-driven egghead lawyers?" Rove said to laughter.
The architect of Bush's political campaigns, Rove had lowered his public profile in recent weeks following his grand jury testimony a month ago and the Oct. 28 indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.
Rove is under investigation for his involvement in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, the covert CIA officer whose husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, is a critic of the Bush administration.
Plame's CIA status was exposed by conservative columnist Robert Novak in July 2003, eight days after her husband accused the U.S. government of manipulating pre-war intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
Rove spoke to Novak and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper about Wilson's wife and her CIA status before each of the two journalists disclosed Plame's identity.
Libby was indicted in the probe on five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI. He has pleaded not guilty. Libby told investigators he had learned of the CIA status of Wilson's wife from journalists. Evidence gathered in the probe by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald shows that Cheney, the CIA and the State Department supplied Libby with information about Plame.
The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies was founded in 1982. Early advisers to the 35,000-member society included Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who at the time was a law professor at the University of Chicago.