Rove’s hot seat getting hotter over e-mails

The fight over documents has gone to red alert.

The White House acknowledges it cannot find four years’ worth of e-mails from chief political strategist Karl Rove. The admission has thrust the Democrats’ nemesis back into the center of attention and poses a fresh political challenge for President Bush.

The administration has acknowledged that some e-mails missing from Rove’s Republican party account may relate to the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors last year. The Democratic-run Congress is investigating whether the firings resulted from political pressure by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the White House.

For Democrats, the missing Rove e-mails is one more chance to pound away at their favorite target, the architect of Bush’s 2000 and 2004 presidential victories and all-around White House political fixer.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has compared the missing e-mails to the 18-minute gap on President Nixon’s Watergate tapes. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says the White House message to Congress is: “We are stonewalling.”

The White House chalks it up to just another outbreak of Democratic Rove rage. “My experience has been that any time Karl Rove’s name is mentioned, it adds to the ammunition, regardless of merit,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

Only Dick Cheney raises the same kind of anger — and there is not much they can do about the vice president, short of impeachment.

The Rove connection is sure to be raised when Gonzales testifies Tuesday before Leahy’s committee. His appearance, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say, may determine whether the longtime Bush friend can hold onto his job.

Democrats plan to focus on the Justice Department’s contradictory statements about the firings and Gonzales’ shifting explanations of his own role.

Democrats now are seeking Rove’s sworn public testimony in their investigation of dismissed U.S. attorneys. So far, the White House has agreed only to off-the-record interviews for Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers with committee members.

Department documents turned over to Congress suggested that Rove and Miers had an early role in planning the firings, despite initial White House statements to the contrary.

Democrats have threatened to issue subpoenas. But, due to the constitutional separation of executive and legislative powers, it is not clear they can force Rove to testify.

“He’s been a pet symbol to Democrats,” said Fred Greenstein, professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University. “It’s clear that he is very important to Bush and that the president takes him very seriously, even if the 2008 election outcome would be totally unaffected by dropping Rove.”

Despite Rove’s reputation as a political grand master, there is not exactly a rush to his door among the current large field of Republican presidential hopefuls.

Democrats have had Rove in their cross hairs before; he always has slipped away.

He was implicated in the CIA leak case as someone who had passed on the identity of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame to reporters. But he never was charged and never called to testify in the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice and is awaiting sentencing.

Rove also managed to emerge unscathed from investigations of administration and congressional ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

If Rove deliberately deleted e-mails relating to the firing of the prosecutors, Democrats suggest, he could run afoul of a 1978 law that requires the White House to keep documents that relate to presidential actions, decisions and deliberations.

Republican strategist Rich Galen says Democrats could make the same mistakes that Republicans made under House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in going after President Clinton after winning control of the House.

“That’s what got us in big trouble in 1998 (midterm elections, when Republicans lost seats) and ultimately cost Newt his job as speaker. We so solely focused on going after Bill Clinton that people said, in essence, `We hired you to solve stuff — and not to spend all day, every day, trying to figure out how to make Bill Clinton’s life miserable,'” said Galen, who worked for Gingrich when he was speaker.

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, denies that his client deleted his own e-mails from a Republican-sponsored computer system. “His understanding, starting very, very early in the administration was that those e-mails were being archived,” Luskin said.

Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said the controversy over the missing Rove e-mails is another sign of “the downward spiral of an old, tired administration.”

It comes as public support for the war in Iraq continues to erode, Bush’s approval ratings are in the mid-30s and the administration is embroiled in multiple scandals and ethics investigations.

“They’ve got serious combat fatigue after six years in office,” said Baker. “The forces there are getting very thin.”



Tom Raum has covered Washington for The Associated Press since 1973, including five presidencies.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Ray

    This administration is based on lies, occupied by liars,its policies are corrupt and immoral, and enacted illegally. The head attorney acts outside of the law and
    sponsors the trashing of the constitution. The intellegence agencies work against citizens right to privacy along with the corporations that we pay for our communication networks. When anyone of them get caught, they simply can’t remember, loose e-mail records, resign,
    or just deny and ignore. Libby took the fall for Cheney,
    Rumsfelt quit before being indicted. Bush signs statements that exempt him from laws that everyone else has to follow, and gives all Americans the Finger.

    Do we really understand how much trouble we are in today?
    Do we fully understand what this all means for tomarrow?
    Does anyone truely believe things can be changed anytime soon? And who on earth has the power or the desire to make that change? And who will the next American Idol Be?

    Why does anyone who questions the innacurate, incomplete,
    911 commission report come under attack by the media? Is free speech a thing of the past? The money spent to investigate Clintons affair was ten times more than was allowed to investigate 911. Because many traitors in the government and military were complicent in the murder of 3000 people so mega dollars and war could be made. Thats the sum of it. So go back to the couch before you miss the important news about Imus or who’s the daddy or some other meaningless crap that brainwashes you sheeples.

  2. gene

    So they lost 4 years of Karl Rove’s (Bush’s biggest butt-sucker) emails. Do I smell something or did someone just FART? Every time I see a recent picture of Bushidiot or any of his criminal gain I literally get physically ill. How much longer will these clowns continue before enough american dick heads wake up and smell the above mention FART. From what I see of Joe public everyday, this shit could go on for years. The average Joe moron deserves Bushidiot just like the average so called christain deservers these buildings they call churches. OK, so I’m not perfect but give me a break…..enough is enough or is it?

  3. sadsack

    Didn’t I read that the RNC had fixed it so that Rove could not delete his E-Mails? Yes I did. So why is he being suspected of doing just that? I do find it side splitting that the white house considers this only a case of “Rove Rage” that the democrats are making such a big deal out of something as minor as only FOUR YEARS of missing E-Mails.

    Another thing I’m confused about is this “constitutional separation of executive and legislative powers” that may prevent congress from subpoenaing Rove. I can read. I can understand what I read. Everything I have read says that congress can subpoena and force anyone in the nation to appear before them and answer questions. In the past the Court has granted exclusions based on national security but that does not apply in this case. That makes me think the dems are looking for a way to let Rove/Bush off again just like Fitzpatrick did in the Plame Game.

    I’m sick of all this all show and no dough crap. Both parties belong to the same “real” government and all they do is fight each other for control because the one in control makes the most money.

  4. Okay, so we all know the reich screwed the pooch (again) in yet another attempt to cover their collective asses and this time it’s gonna cost ’em! I hope the Dems fry Rove, and the rest of his ilk, like the chickens they are. Wonder who they’re gonna pick to be the fall guy this time? They’ve run out of low-profile pawns.

  5. Mark-NC

    Comparing this “oversight” to the witch hunt Gingrich was on is a joke and a distraction.

    Gingrich was chasing a popular president over cheating on his wife. Dan Burton and other Republican chairmen threw out subpoenas if the wind blew. It was obvious partisan crap – everybody knew it, and the Republicans lost ground in the next election.

    The Dems want to know who outed an undercover CIA agent, why U. S. Attorneys were replaced when most were very highly regarded and the reasons look legal (thoughly only barely, and holding your nose to avoid the stench is required) but done for purely political advantage, where all the money is going in Iraq and how no-bid contracts are handed out, who Bush is spying on and/or torturing, etc.

    These are not partisan questions. But, I do understand why Republicans are screaming foul at the great risk of looking like amazing hypocrites. In the light of day, the Republican leadership will look like pigs – to everybody on the planet who is not a Republican.

  6. gene

    (Ray) just above, I have to say YOU nailed that board to the wall. Dam and I mean DAM good post. Thinks for suming it up so nicely. Your last statement about the couch though doesn’t apply to some of us out here. I know I can’t (as you suggested) do much but I can sure as hell (hate) the shit out of what is and has happen to this country. I’m so sick of lies and watching brain dead citizens purchase their next LCD but hell, I have plenty of ativan and beer to calm my nerves. I am 60 and spent 22 years on active duty. I’m grateful “things” weren’t as bad “back then” as they are now. And to all that post the TRUTH (strange word when you here it) thankyou, it helps old farts like myself.

    Now where in the hell did I put that bottle of ativan?