COMMENTS: Executive Privilege

More e-mail memoranda surfaced in the case of those eight US Attorneys and they shifted the focus away from the Justice Department to the White House. The plan to replace federal prosecutors at the start of George Bush's second term was hatched, according to the e-mails that NBC's Pete Williams showed us, by the President's political operative Karl Rove. Rove discussed the firings with Alberto Gonzales while Gonzales was still White House counsel, before he was confirmed as Attorney General.

A pair of storylines arise from these new e-mails: first Rove may become the object of Congressional investigation. "Many people on the Hill--Democrats and Republicans--believe they were misled," NBC's Tim Russert (at the tail of the Williams videostream) reported, "and they are quite angry about it." CBS' Jim Axelrod reported that Rove and Harriet Miers, Gonzales' successor as White House counsel, may both receive a sub-poena to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. Axelrod's unnamed source at the White House assured him that Rove is "adamant" that replacing all those prosecutors was never his idea. ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg (no link) argued that the committee will be answered by claims of executive privilege: "Rove is unlikely to testify."

Second, the revelation is "potentially more troubling" for Gonzales, noted NBC's Williams. He may have been caught in a lie at his Tuesday press conference about the firings of the prosecutors. CBS' Bob Orr followed up with a different list of reasons, civil libertarian ones, why Gonzales is "tangled in controversy" reminding us of his advocacy for warrantless wiretaps, imprisonment without trial and abusive interrogation.


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