Hat tip to Roger Shuler at the Legal Schnauzer blog for this one…
It didn’t get much attention, but the testimony from Karl Rove that was released this week concerned not just the U.S. attorney firings, but also another alleged instance of politicization of the Justice Department: the Don Siegelman prosecution.
On that score, Rove emerged almost totally unscathed from the transcript’s release. The major papers didn’t mention Siegelman at all in their coverage, and the Alabama press largely portrayed Rove as having denied any involvement in the episode, as he’s done before.
But a closer look at the transcript suggests it’s not nearly that simple. Rove was asked numerous versions of the question about whether he played a role in the Siegelman prosecution. And though he offered flat denials to some of those versions, it’s striking how many times he declined to give a firm answer, instead falling back on responses like, “not that I recall,” or “not that I’m aware of.”
Siegelman himself agrees, telling TPMmuckraker in an interview that Rove repeatedly “leaves the door cracked” in his testimony. “He didn’t deny this,” Siegelman added, calling Rove “a pathological liar,” who “practiced the art of deception starting early in his life.”
Let’s go to the transcript:
At one point, Eliot Mincberg of the House Judiciary committee asked Rove:
In the period of time, again, between Governor Siegelman’s election and the end of 2002, did you ever communicate about Governor Siegelman with anyone working at the Department of Justice?
Rove replied unequivocally: “No”.
But that certainty was rare.
Soon afterwards, Mincberg asked:
[I]n the period of time between Governor Siegelman’s election and the end of 2002, did you have any communication about Governor Siegelman with anyone working at any of the Alabama U.S. Attorneys’ offices?
Rove replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”
Referring to that same period of time up to the end of 2002, did you have any communications about a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, or illegal acts by Governor Siegelman with Bob Riley, his son Rob Riley, or anyone in the Riley administration?
This time, Rove first asked Mincberg to repeat the question. Then he answered: “Not that I recall.”
In the period of time, again up to the end of 2002, did you have any communications about a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, or illegal acts by Governor Siegelman to anyone working in the media or the press?
You’d think that’s something Rove would remember well enough to give a definitive answer on especially given the amount of time he’s had, since his testimony was agreed to, specifically to allow him to go back and review the record.
But again, Rove answered: “Not that I’m aware of.”
Again, in the period of time between Governor Siegelman’s election and the end of 2002, did you or anyone working for you ever have any communications with anyone about a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, or illegal acts by Governor Siegelman?
Rove’s response: “Not that I’m aware of.” (Of course, Mincberg asked here about “anyone working for you,” as well as Rove himself, so perhaps the hedge is appropriate here. But Rove’s White House staff wasn’t huge. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to ascertain, in the many months since his testimony was scheduled, whether any of his aides had such a conversation.)
Mincberg then moved on to a later time period:
Again, in that same period of time, 2002 to the public release of the indictment of October 2005, did you or anyone at OPA or RNC or RGA have any communications about a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, or illegal acts by Governor Siegelman with Bill Canary?
After conferring with his counsel, Rove replied: “I don’t recall.”
Note that here, Rove didn’t reply “not that I’m aware of,” which might be understandable given the number of people covered by the question. But: “Not that I recall.”