WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House e-mails and transcripts of closed-door interviews with former Bush aides Karl Rove and Harriet Miers reveal involvement as early as May 2005 by Rove's office in the 2006 firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday released nearly 6,000 pages of documents from the committee's investigation into the firings.
In May and June 2005, for example, Rove aide Scott Jennings wrote e-mails to Tim Griffin, also in Rove's White House office, pushing for the dismissal of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.
Jennings wondered "what else I can do to move this process forward" in one e-mail, and told Griffin in another that, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY." The impetus behind the push, according to the documents, was a disagreement in how Iglesias handled voter fraud cases.
Miers, then White House counsel, e-mailed in June 2005 that a "decision" had been made to replace Iglesias despite the attorney's top job review rankings from the Department of Justice.
Rove told the judiciary committee, according to transcripts of his interview, that Jennings was "freelancing" in his attempts to have Iglesias fired, but Miers, in her interview, said that a very "agitated" Rove telephoned her from New Mexico in September 2006, saying that Iglesias was "a serious problem and he wanted something done about it."
A month later, then-U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico, e-mailed Rove that Iglesias was "shy about doing his job" of bringing corruption charges against her opponent in the 2006 race, Patricia Madrid.
Records also show that then-U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, also was involved in pressing for Iglesias' replacement. The documents and transcripts show that Domenici spoke with White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten about Iglesias in early October and either he or his staff spoke with Rove at least four times in October.
Iglesias was ultimately placed on a list of attorneys to be fired in late 2006.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Bush administration official Karl Rove is scheduled to be interviewed Friday about why a number of U.S. attorneys were fired in 2006, according to an attorney in private practice familiar with the
Rove will be questioned by Nora Dannehy, a Connecticut prosecutor who was appointed last year to lead an investigation into whether any Bush administration officials broke any laws in connection with the dismissals.
A spokesman for Dannehy would not comment when asked whether a meeting is scheduled with Rove.
Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, would not comment on whether his client will be interviewed Friday. But he told CNN, "Rove has said since Ms. Dannehy was appointed that he would cooperate fully with her investigation."
A Justice Department report last year found the firings of some U.S. attorneys were influenced by political considerations.
Domenici is the fourth Senate Republican to announce his retirement.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Veteran Republican Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico will announce Thursday that he will not seek re-election to a seventh term next year, opening up yet another competitive seat for the GOP to defend, three Republican sources told CNN Wednesday.
Domenici, 75, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, will make his retirement announcement at 4 p.m. (6 p.m. ET) at St. Mary's School in Albuquerque, the grammar school he attended as a boy.
A Domenici aide told CNN that the senator will be very specific about his reasons for retirement, which the aide said have nothing to do with either his poll numbers or the scrutiny Domenici has faced over the firing of a federal prosecutor in New Mexico.
The departure of Domenici is a further blow to Republican chances of retaking the Senate in 2008, opening up fifth GOP seat to defend in a state where Democrats are highly competitive.
Sitting Republican senators in Virginia, Colorado and Nebraska have also announced their retirements, and Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, caught up in a sex scandal, has indicated he won't seek re-election and may leave the Senate sooner if his battle to overturn a guilty plea to disorderly conduct charges isn't successful.
In order to regain control of the Senate, Republicans must make a net gain of just two seats. However, they are defending 22 seats - including the five open seats - while Democrats have just 12 to defend. While Democrats haven't won a Senate seat in Idaho in more than 30 years, the open races in New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado and Nebraska are likely to be competitive.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House's deputy political director skirted at least a dozen questions from a Senate committee Thursday about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year, asserting - as expected - a claim of executive privilege by President Bush.
Scott Jennings, who also is a special assistant to the president, arrived at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with his attorney, Mark Paoletta, to be sure he didn't commit a violation.
The panel had subpoenaed both Jennings and Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, but Rove refused to show up, angering Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt.
"I consider that blanket claim (of executive privilege) to be unsubstantiated," Leahy said he told Jennings before the meeting.
White House Counsel Fred Fielding informed the committee Wednesday that Rove, "as an immediate adviser to the president," can't be ordered to testify and was told not to attend.
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a House panel Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress on Thursday that the confrontation in 2004 between then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in Ashcroft's hospital room was over the controversial warrantless surveillance program - in apparent contradiction of Gonzales' Senate testimony on Tuesday .
Mueller said he spoke with Ashcroft shortly after Gonzales left the hospital, and he was told the meeting dealt with "an NSA (National Security Agency) program that has been much discussed, yes."
Mueller made the comment as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gonzales insisted he had visited the ailing Ashcroft in the hospital to discuss "other intelligence activities," not the surveillance program.
Mueller also testified Thursday that he had serious reservations about the warrantless surveillance program at the time of the dramatic internal administration showdown and threats of top-level resignations.
Mueller did not confirm he had threatened to resign, but he twice said he supports the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had testified that Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card tried to pressure Ashcroft to reauthorize a surveillance program against terror suspects.
Mueller for the first time publicly confirmed he did dispatch - as Comey had testified - an FBI security detail to the hospital room to ensure that Comey was not removed from the room when Gonzales was there.
–CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A former White House staffer is asking for compassion from the Senate Judiciary Committee in what may be another constitutional standoff between the legislative and executive branches, while the committee's Democratic chairman is sharpening his words.
The lawyer for former White House political director Sara Taylor - who has been subpoenaed to testify before the senate this week about the firing of several U.S. attorneys - sent a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, asking that she not be used as "the focus of the constitutional struggle."
"In our view, it is unfair to Ms. Taylor that this constitutional struggle might be played out with her as the object of an unseemly tug of war," wrote lawyer Neil Eggleston.
He said that Taylor has done nothing wrong and would testify "without hesitation" if not for an expected order from the White House - where she worked until six weeks ago - that she not comply the subpoena.
Eggleston urged senators to focus any punitive action against the White House, not his client. He said Taylor was caught in a "monumental clash between the executive and legislative branches of government" that could ultimately be decided in the courts.
Sen. Leahy's response to the letter was unrelenting as he continued to press for Taylor's testimony and wrote that he expects her to appear. Leahy fired away at the White House for what he called interference on the committee's investigation.
"I hope the White House stops this stonewalling and accepts my offer to negotiate a workable solution to the Committee's oversight requests," he said in a written statement.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Another top Justice Department official involved in the controversial firing of several U.S. Attorneys has announced he's resigning.
Mike Elston, chief of staff to departing Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is stepping down next week, Justice Department officials said Friday.
Elston's departure had been anticipated after McNulty announced in May that he will leave the Justice Department this summer to pursue a career in the private sector.
Documents released by the Justice Department to Congressional investigators have shown Elston was involved in discussions with other high level Justice officials about plans to remove eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The controversy has already prompted the resignations under pressure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and his Senior Counsel and White House liaison Monica Goodling. Michael Battle who headed the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys which oversees the federal prosecutors resigned voluntarily.
Gonzales has announced he expects to serve through the remaining 18 months of the Bush presidency.
–CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
Could Rove face a subpoena in the future?
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As congressional subpoenas flew Wednesday morning over last year's controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys, two Democratic congressional sources explained to CNN why House and Senate Judiciary Committees elected not to subpoena White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Both sources told CNN the committees are building their investigation and – like any investigation – they want to build their case by talking to and gathering information from lower level witnesses and officials before they possibly move to the more senior witnesses.
“We want to build up and get documents to have basis to ask questions of Rove,” one Democratic congressional source explained. “It’s the way you do it in any investigation.”
But the source conceded it is likely the investigation will lead to a constitutional showdown with the executive branch and the likelihood is Congress will never get a chance to talk to any of these White House witnesses.
The committees have tried, with no success, to persuade Rove to testify at the hearings on the investigation. In May, the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed several e-mails from Rove to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales regarding the controversial firings.
As part of the congressional probe into last year’s firings, both Judiciary Committees issued subpoenas Wednesday for two other former White House employees. The Senate panel, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, issued a subpoena to Sara Taylor, former White House political director and a key deputy to Karl Rove, the top political adviser to President Bush. She resigned a few weeks ago. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, subpoenaed former White House Counsel Harriet Miers. (Read full story)
– CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash