David Iglesias

Former US Attorney David Iglesias, from MSNBC’s Hardball

Karl Rove is becoming everyone’s favorite target again, and it’s not because everyone wants to reach out and touch him. This time he’s the investigative target of one of his own targets. More on that in a minute.

A year ago Rove escaped indictment in the Valerie Plame outing apparently because he had five chances to change his story tell the truth before the Grand Jury. Now he’s become the focus of investigations into violations of the Hatch Act, violations of the laws requiring archiving of Presidential messages and potentially illegal political interference in the affairs of the Department of Justice, and because these are all tied together, they may yet all add up to obstruction of justice.

This week, the Administration left Alberto Gonzales and his shattered reputation on the perimeter of wagons that still encircle and protect Rove and the President. That was the meaning of President Bush’ astonishing statement that Gonzales’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee increased his confidence in his now discredited Attorney General. Dan Froomkin ascribed “Bush’s Inexplicable Confidence” to stalling:

But does the White House really think this scandal will pass?

More likely, Bush and his aides are stalling for time, hoping to keep the public in the dark about what really prompted the prosecutor purge for as long as possible, taking some pleasure in befuddling congressional investigators — and letting Gonzales’s limp corpse take fire that might otherwise be aimed at the White House directly.

Everyone else knows that Gonzales’ effectiveness at an Attorney General ended with his appearance, and his dwindling value as a shield instead of just another embarrassment for the White House probably depends on how much effort Democrats continue to expend trying to force Gonzales’ resignation when their real targets — the folks who gave the compliant Gonzales his political instructions — are in the White House. But Gonzales must be wondering why he continues to be the sacrifice when a growing number of people are pointing their fingers at Karl Rove.

Yesterday the media picked up on the LA Times story that revealed an obscure White House entity, the Office of Special Counsel, had initiated a broad investigation of several matters relating to the White House efforts to politicize not just the Justice Department but other parts of the federal government. And this investigation is inside the circle of wagons. Firedoglake’s Eli highlighted that story last night.

The WaPo also carried the story yesterday, which was then picked up by the major television news shows last night. (Here are CBS and ABC and CNN.) According to the LA Times and WaPo stories, the initial focus was the powerpoint presentation Karl Rove’s operatives did for General Services Administation officials early this year to encourge them to manage their offices to benefit Republican candidates, actions that would violate the Hatch Act.

J. Scott Jennings conducted the Jan. 26 videoconference in the political affairs office at the White House. His PowerPoint presentation, to as many as 40 Republican GSA political appointees, contained slides describing Democratic seats that the GOP planned to target in the next election and Republican seats that needed to be protected.

“That’s the smoke,” said an OSC staff member, who added that the OSC is looking at whether similar briefings occurred at other executive branch agencies.

As Eli noted, bloggers have been quick to urge that the head of OSC should not be trusted; emptywheel had this story two years ago (h/t cbl). On Countdown last night, Howard Fineman expressed the Beltway’s (and Democrats’) suspicions about how thorough and honest any internal White House investigation would be. But Administration officials have unboubtedly noticed that the Democrats have hired over 200 investigators to search under every rock in this scandal-plagued Administration. They must realize they need to at least look like they’re doing their jobs.

I also suspect this obscure investigative unit took notice of what happened last month when Henry Waxman’s Committee publically humilitated and upbraided the White House security officials for their failure to investigate who was responsible for exposing Valerie Plame’s identity. With Waxman’s Committee exposing their indifference to lawbreaking, and the White House showing its willingness to let even cabinet members fall on their swords, lower level bureaucrats can figure out that the rules are changing and be “encouraged” to start doing their jobs. If not, Waxman’s Committee will be following up. In the meantime, to emphasize the point that they will no longer tolerate having the entire US Government become branches of the Republican Party, Congressional Democrats are already calling for the resignation of GSA’s head, Lurita don’t leave any fingerprints Doan for enabling the White House’ apparent Hatch Act violations.

Nothing like a little oversight. Everyone in the Bush Administration knows the spotlight is coming.

And all that was written as I watched this:

Former US Attorney David Iglesias called into MSNBC’s Hardball last night to answer questions about his forced resignation, the competence of Alberto Gonzales and the possible complicity of Karl Rove in the continuing politicization of the Justice Department. His comments were frank, revealing, and seemingly sincere; and unlike his former boss, he remembers the answer to every question. Iglesias pretty much validated the Democrats’ argument that the White House still owes the American people answers to some tough questions about their role in politicizing the Justice Department. Here is a sampling:

– Why does he think he was fired? “I believe the reason I was forced to resign was for not getting involved in political activities, in activities that could have assisted a member of Congress.”

– What was the issue? “Well, the election fraud was the initial problem, and then I think what broke the back, so to speak—the straw that broke the camel’s back was the non-rushing of politically sensitive corruption cases against Democrats in New Mexico.”

– Is there evidence that Rove broke the law? “There are some emails—there is some evidence. It is circumstantial now. I believe if OSC digs in, they can get direct evidence establishing that link.”

– Is he (Iglesias) a Republican? Yes.

– If he were investigating this case, where would he look to find out why the eight US Attorneys were forced to resign and whether it was improper? Monica Goodling is the key, he said. She was not only the counsel to Gonzales but also the liaison between the Justice Department and the White House. Everything would have been going through her, so it’s important to get her testimony.

But here’s the bombshell:

MATTHEWS: Mr. Iglesias, was your complaint to the Office of Special Counsel the reason for this investigation of Karl Rove?

DAVID IGLESIAS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY: It—it—it could have started the ball rolling, yes. This is something I filed back on April 3 of this year.

MATTHEWS: Well, April 3 is not that long ago. What—what, in terms of the timeline, leads you to believe that your – that your complaint led to this probe?

IGLESIAS: Well, based on Special Counsel having powers to investigate where the evidence goes. I actually filed a Hatch Act complaint against Gonzales, McNulty, Kyle Sampson, and Monica Goodling. And I think OSC is already getting information, getting documents produced from the Justice Department and possibly from the White House already.

[snip]

MATTHEWS: Why did you go to them if you thought they might be feeble? You must have some confidence that going to them would get you some justice here, as you see it.

IGLESIAS: Because their entire mission is to bring enforcement actions against the executive branch of the federal government. Also, their deputy is a military reservist, and I’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in him and in Mr. Bloch.

To borrow a line from Christy, it’s not smart to upset prosecutors, Karl. They don’t go away. And I just have to smile, because you can bet Marcy’s off in the weeds looking for what various parties were saying/doing starting after April 3.