Â Â Â Â Here are news reports in the wake of Karl Rove's testimony today before the House Judiciary Committee regarding his role in the firing of several U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration.
Â Â Â Â Here is an article by Carrie Johnson ofÂ the Washington Post entitled "Rove Had Heavier Hand in Prosecutor Firings than Previously Known," and here is one by David Johnston of the New York Times entitled "Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small."Â Zachary Roth of Talking Points Memo hasÂ a more neutral headline than either of the newspapers: "Emails Show Rove's Role in U.S. Attorney Firings."Â
Â Â Â Â Rove's testimony before the Committee has not yet been released, but several emails were apparently made available to reporters showing that Rove was intensely interested in finding employment for a protege, Timothy Griffin,Â who replaced U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins.Â The emails also suggested that Republican senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Kit Bond of Missouri had sought the dismissal of federal prosecutors in their respective states, and that the White House had complied.
Â Â Â Â While Presidents appoint all of the U.S. Attorneys upon entering office, it is highly unusual for a President to terminate the employment of a sitting U.S. Attorney whom he has appointed in the absence of any allegation of wrongdoing because of the strong tradition of prosecutorial independence in this country.Â Roth reports that special prosecutor Nora Dannehy is investigating whether any laws were violated in the removal of the prosecutors.Â This will depend upon the reason why prosecutors were fired.Â It may be disappointing to the public and discouraging to the Justice Department for a PresidentÂ to fire an effective prosecutor solely to open a slot for his deputy'sÂ friend; however, it may not be illegal, since U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President.Â On the other hand,Â if any of the U.S. Attorneys were terminated for the purpose of influencing specific cases for political reasons, it may constitute obstruction of justice.Â We still don't know why the U.S. Attorneys were fired, but it looks like we will.