State Party Chair Admits Bush's Right-Hand Man Claimed 'He's Gone' After Demands to Fire David Iglesias
New York Times Calls for Gonzalez's Head, but The BRAD BLOG Calls for Bush's...
By Brad Friedman on 3/11/2007, 12:45pm PT  

A report from McLatchy Newspapers Saturday night has busted the thing wide open, placing Rove and the White House smack dab in the center of the scandal in which 8 U.S. Attorneys from the Dept. of Justice were canned. As if they weren't already.

While both the now-disgraced Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) have already admitted their own inappropriate intervention in the matter, the state's Republican Party Chair, Allen Weh, has now gone on record directly implicating Karl Rove.

Further, we learn that one of the points the NM Republicans were upset about was Iglesias's failure to move fast enough on a "voter fraud" investigation. However, the McClatchy report indicates (as usual) that it wasn't actually a "voter fraud" investigation, but rather a "voter registration fraud" investigation in question.

We'll add here, for those who hadn't noticed, Wilson was named the winner over her Democratic opponent Patricia Madrid last November by fewer than 800 votes. Since New Mexico's new automatic recount law didn't kick in until the first of this year, there was no recount. That, despite our own discussions with Madrid after the election and our encouragement that she ask for a recount on her own.

(We'll hope, at least, that she kept her "Madrid for Congress" signs around, since depending on how things shake out down here there could be a Special Election in the not-too-distant future as more details of both Wilson and Domenici's inappropriate pressure as applied to Iglesias continue to come out.)

Between last night's report placing Rove at the center of the controversy, and a follow-up later in the evening from AP, it appears, according to Talking Points Memo (who has been all over this story), that someone --- oh, let's say Rove, just for the fun of it --- "may have gotten to Weh." In AP's later coverage, Weh appears to be attempting to mitigate his original account of the Rove incident, suggesting it happened after the attorneys had already been canned.

At the same time, New York Times has now gone on record calling for the termination of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the wake of this particular mess, and several other failures including his gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The key details from each of the various relevant stories follow, as well as our recommendation about who really needs to be fired at this point...

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON - Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction in part with his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.

In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Allen Weh, the party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.

"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.

"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.

"I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,'" said Weh.

Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire Iglesias and seven U.S. attorneys in other states was a personnel matter - made without White House intervention.
"The facts speak for themselves," Iglesias said, when he was told of Weh's account of his conversation with Rove.

Weh's disclosure comes as Congress investigates the circumstances behind the firings of the U.S. attorneys, most of whom had positive job evaluations, including Iglesias.
Iglesias, who was fired Dec. 7, said he believes politics was the driving force. He accused Republicans Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of trying to pressure him to bring indictments against several Democrats in time for the 2006 congressional election.

Domenici and Wilson acknowledge calling Iglesias, but deny pressuring him.

Justice Department officials have revealed that Domenici repeatedly contacted officials within the department requesting Iglesias's removal. But when asked Friday whether he contacted Rove about the issue, Domenici said he could not remember.
Several Republican activists interviewed for this story said their frustration with Iglesias dated back to before the 2004 election, and his decision to create a task force on voter fraud rather than try to prosecute Democrats who submitted allegedly fraudulent voter registrations.

Weh backs off his Rove story a bit in an AP interview later on Saturday:

Weh told The Associated Press later Saturday that "Rove has little or nothing to do with this."
He said his conversation at the White House with Rove came "after the fact, after the termination had occurred."

"When I talked to Karl it was at a White House briefing for state party chairmen after a reception the day before," Weh told the AP. "The termination had already occurred."

Sure it did.

David Kurtz at TPM then asks the so-far unanswered $64,000 question:

Did the AP ask Weh whether he had heard from the White House after the McClatchy piece broke, or did Weh figure it out on his own?

The New York Times today demands his firing in an editorial today headlined "The Failed Attorney General":

During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales said he understood the difference between the job he held — President Bush’s in-house lawyer — and the job he wanted, which was to represent all Americans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of the Constitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have a clue about the difference.

He has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency. If anyone, outside Mr. Bush’s rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still had doubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them.

The unsigned editorial goes on to call Gonzales on the carpet for his failed administration at DoJ in his oversight and response to scandals ranging from the U.S. Attorney firings matter, to the new FBI admissions of Patriot Act abuses, to his repudiation of the Geneva Conventions and recommendations of kidnapping, secret detentions, abuse and torture, to his abominable corruption of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On that last underreported point, they accurately opine:

His Justice Department has abandoned its duties as guardian of election integrity and voting rights. It approved a Georgia photo-ID law that a federal judge later likened to a poll tax, a case in which Mr. Gonzales’s political team overrode the objections of the department’s professional staff.

The Justice Department has been shamefully indifferent to complaints of voter suppression aimed at minority voters. But it has managed to find the time to sue a group of black political leaders in Mississippi for discriminating against white voters.

With all of that said, of course, we wonder how many times these papers and various Democrats will continue to call for the heads of the henchmen carrying out the dirty work (Rumsfeld, Gonzales, etc.) while continuing to give a free pass to the guy who enabled all of them, namely George W. Bush.

How long will it be before the NY Times pens the editorial: "The Failed Attorney President" and calls for the firing of the man who is, after all, The Decider for all of the above?