So, four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a special prosecutor to investigate the "inconsistencies" in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony Thursday. And Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., gave notice that he planned to subpoena Karl Rove and his underling Scott Jennings. The march to a constitutional showdown continues apace.
It is clear that Gonzales has been very carefully choosing his words on the subject for years now in order to make some sort of false distinctions about the wiretapping program. In the case of the late-night hospital meeting with John Ashcroft he has pushed it too far for some members to stomach. The evidence is overwhelming that "the program" they were all dealing with was the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and that Gonzales' explanations are transparent parsings designed to obfuscate the truth. It's hard to know if the solicitor general will appoint a special prosecutor and it's unclear if that's even a good idea. The administration will just have another stonewall to fall back on if a DOJ inquiry is initiated. Still, what's the difference? It's not as if they are forthcoming anyway.
Leahy's issuing of subpoenas for Rove and Jennings gets back to the meat of the matter: the U.S. attorneys scandal and how closely Karl Rove and the White House were working the levers of the DOJ to rig the vote in swing states. And in that regard, Marcy Wheeler spotted a little detail in the Gonzales hearing that I don't think many people noticed:
One more detail about the Ashcroft and Gonzales guidelines on contacts between DOJ and the White House. While the latter explicitly gives Cheney the authority to communicate with DOJ about ongoing cases, I don't believe it gives Karl Rove -- or any of the people who work in Office of Political Affairs save its head -- that authority.
[ ... ]
Much of the communication regarding the U.S. Attorney firings went through the White House Counsel's office, as did discussions about the Washington State voter fraud case that John McKay refused to take. But not all of it. In particular, Karl and Scott Jennings were known to be closely involved in the Iglesias firing, where they took complaints from New Mexico Republicans and passed them on to Alberto Gonzales.
It's true that Ashcroft and Gonzales reversed what had more or less been a Chinese wall between the White House and the DOJ in other administrations and basically allowed everyone but the cleaning staff to have access to personnel and information about criminal investigations. But oddly enough, Rove doesn't appear to have been among those granted that access.
Yet, he is clearly at the center of the U.S. attorney scandals, withrevelations just the other day that from the beginning of the Bush administration he was considered an important conduit in matters of U.S. attorneys. Bogus claims of "voter fraud" are one of his special interests and his obsession with alleged fraud in the states in which the fired U.S. attorneys worked is more than just coincidence. Now we find that he must have been doing most of the dirty work outside the very wide official channel that allowed dozens of people inside the White House to interact with the DOJ. With one exception where he violated the rules directly, he very carefully avoided any obvious hands-on involvement.