Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rove Linked to Siegelman Case

It has been widely assumed by critics of the Siegelman prosecution that Karl Rove's dark hand was present in the machinations of DOJ attorneys who tried and had the former governor of Alabama convicted on bribery charges. Now one of the lawyers who worked on the case has testified in a sworn deposition before a House committee that she was told that Rove was directly involved in the prosecution:

In a closed-door interview with committee staff, Simpson recalled how Rob Riley, current Gov. Bob Riley’s (R) son, told her about Rove’s role in a plan to prosecute Siegelman if he did not back down from contesting the 2001 gubernatorial election results that handed the office to Riley.

According to the transcript, Simpson described a 2005 conversation with Rob Riley, who told her that Rove had contacted the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice to press for further prosecution of Siegelman. She said Rob Riley also recounted how the case would be assigned to a federal judge who “hated” Siegelman and would “hang Don Siegelman.”

The Birmingham News reported Tuesday that Simpson’s latest account differs from a previous sworn statement she gave that Siegelman dropped a recount in 2002 because a supporter planted an opponent’s campaign signs at a Ku Klux Klan rally. She amended her story when discussing the matter with congressional staffers to add that Siegelman dropped his challenge of Bob Riley’s victory after learning about the campaign signs and after being promised that the federal investigation of his administration would end.

Of course, there are shenanigans at work here. The transcript of Simpson's testimony was apparently leaked by GOP staffers to a reporter in the Birmingham News, a publication that Scott Horton has repeatedly lambasted for it's pro-Republican stances and over-the-top efforts to downplay the scandal:

Early yesterday, a contact on the G.O.P. staff of the House Judiciary Committee told me that her colleagues had taken a step to attempt to pre-empt the hearings that the Committee had originally scheduled for Thursday (now postponed), at which the Siegelman prosecution will appear center stage. They were, she told me, going to use a time-honored technique: the interview transcripts would be leaked to a reporter “who can be trusted to get our message across.” That is, not a real reporter, but a partisan attack animal. I wondered for a second just who the G.O.P.’s attack dog would be. But in fact, it didn’t take much effort, since it’s been clear for many months exactly who in the press could be counted upon to present Republican Party propaganda in the guise of a news story. And then, in a matter of only a few hours, the story appeared, just where I knew it would, in the pages of the Birmingham News.

Which, predictably, spun the report in such a way as to point out alleged flaws in Simpson's testimony, as the Hill report above makes clear and as Horton explains in the post I quote from above.

If these GOP staffers were hoping to pre-empt the inevitable press attention this story would get, they failed. Here's Time on the story:

If Simpson’s version of events is accurate, it would show direct political involvement by the White House in federal prosecutions — a charge leveled by Administration critics in connection with the U.S. attorney scandal that led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

And that indeed, is the nut of this extremely damaging allegation. And as Horton makes clear in this post, Simpson has the goods to refute claims by other participants in the sham prosecution that Rove and the White House had nothing to do with the case.

I can't summarize what this damning allegation means anymore effectively than Horton does, so here's his conclusion:

We are one step closer to understanding why Karl Rove left the White House, and perhaps also why Alberto Gonzales stepped down as attorney general. The Siegelman case is emerging, as we predicted, as the most damning exhibit yet in the story of the Bush Administration’s use of the Justice Department as a partisan political tool.

Indeed, this story appears to be slowly but inexorably climbing all the way to the top.

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