Karl Rove will cooperate with a federal criminal inquiry underway into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and has already spoken to investigators in a separate, internal DOJ investigation into the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his attorney said in an interview.
Rove previously refused to cooperate with an earlier Justice Department inquiry into the firings. The Justice Department’s Inspector General and its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) said in a report released last September detailing their earlier probe of the firings of the U.S. attorneys that their investigation was severely “hindered” by the refusal by Rove and other senior Bush administration officials to cooperate with the probe.
Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said that Rove, however, will cooperate with a federal criminal probe of the firings being led by Nora Dannehy, the Acting U.S. Attorney for Connecticut who was selected by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to lead the investigation. Dannehy has recently empaneled a federal grand jury to hear evidence in the matter.
Luskin told me that Rove had earlier not cooperated with the Inspector General and OPR probe into the firings because “it was not his [Karl’s] call… it was not up to us decide.” Luskin said that Rove was directed by the Bush White House counsel’s office not to cooperate with the Inspector General and OPR.
Regarding the more recent probe by Dannehy, Luskin said: “I can say that he would cooperate with the Dannehy investigation if asked.”
In recent days, according to legal sources, two former Bush White House officials, including one former aide to Rove, have been contacted by investigators working for Dannehy and asked for interviews. One of the two has agreed to be interviewed.
Regarding the decision to cooperate with Dannehy, Luskin said that Rove “has not and will not assert any personal privileges.” He also said that in regard to the earlier probe, Rove had not done so, but had rather only “followed the guidance of the White House.”
Justice’s Inspector General and OPR in their investigation could not compel testimony from witnesses other than that of current Justice Department employees. The two Justice Department watchdog agencies also cannot initiate criminal investigations.
But both the Inspector General and OPR can refer allegations of criminal wrongdoing to the Attorney General, who can then name a criminal prosecutor or special prosecutor to build on the earlier investigations.
Glenn A. Fine, the Inspector General, and H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of OPR, sought the appointment of a special prosecutor in the matter because they said they could not get to the bottom of the U.S. attorney firings because of the refusal by the Bush White House and the senior Bush administration officials to cooperate with their efforts.
Besides Rove, the Inspector and OPR said that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, former White House counsel William Kelley, and Associate White House counsel, Richard Klingler, declined requests to be interviewed by investigators. The Bush White House also refused to “provide internal emails or internal documents related to the U.S. attorney removals,” citing executive privilege concerns.
In a related matter, Luskin disclosed that Rove has already been cooperating with a probe by Justice’s OPR into the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. At the request of Congress, the Justice Department watchdogs are probing whether prosecutors acted ethically in their prosecution of Siegelman as well as allegations that Rove might have encouraged the federal investigation in the first place. Siegelman, who was governor of Alabama, from 1999-2003, was convicted in 2006 of federal charges of bribery and mail fraud.
Regarding Siegelman, Luskin said: “At no time has he or will he assert personal privilege in that matter.” While declining to discuss specifics of what Rove has told investigators regarding Siegelman, Luskin said: “What Karl has said [to investigators] is entirely consistent with what he has said publicly—that he absolutely nothing to do with this.”
The conclusions of that OPR investigation are expected sometime soon.
(ed.note: Murray Waas is a longtime investigative reporter based in Washington D.C.)