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Karl Rove took active role in U.S. attorney's firing, documents show

Newly released documents show Bush's top political aide focused on GOP calls to oust New Mexico's top U.S. prosecutor. Other Bush aides lobbied the Justice Dept. on other issues, the documents show.

August 12, 2009|Tom Hamburger and David G. Savage

The documents released Tuesday also reveal an unusual White House effort to get the Justice Department to help a beleaguered Arizona Republican congressman on the eve of the 2006 election.

News accounts in early fall 2006 had reported that then-Rep. Rick Renzi was under FBI investigation for pursuing a federal land transfer in which he had a hidden financial stake.

According to Miers' interview with the House committee, one of Rove's subordinates contacted Miers, who called then-Deputy Atty. Gen. Paul J. McNulty to seek a statement that would have "vindicated" Renzi.

Miers said she was concerned about leaks to the news media that the FBI was investigating Renzi, and she called McNulty to ask whether someone in Renzi's situation could be "vindicated in the event that nothing is going on." Miers said she was told that this kind of statement was not customary under Justice Department guidelines.

Nonetheless, the transcript of Miers' interview shows that a few days after she made her request, unnamed Justice Department officials told reporters in Arizona that the Renzi investigation was preliminary and that news stories about the inquiry contained unspecified inaccuracies.

Renzi was reelected, but in February 2008 he was indicted in a federal conspiracy case that alleged he used his position in Congress to influence a federal land deal that yielded him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He later stepped down from his congressional committee assignments and left office when his term expired after the November election. He has yet to come to trial.

The newly released Judiciary Committee documents could also become an issue in the closely fought race for governor in New Jersey, where a former Republican U.S. attorney, Chris Christie, is running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

In his testimony last month, Rove revealed that Christie talked with him twice in the last few years about running for governor. By tradition, U.S. attorneys eschew politics after they assume office.

Christie has recently been fending off attacks from Corzine that he was close to the Bush White House.

"I talked to him twice in the last couple of years . . . not regarding his duties as U.S. attorney, but regarding his interest in running for governor," Rove told the House committee, "and he asked me questions about who -- who were good people that knew about running for governor that he could talk to."

Rove's testimony has already been noted in New Jersey. The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor told the Newark Star-Ledger on Tuesday that Rove's statements appear to contradict Christie's claim that he was not preparing to run for governor while still serving as U.S. attorney.

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david.savage@latimes.com

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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