McClatchy reports, “Only weeks before last year’s pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators.”
In two instances in October 2006, President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, or his deputies passed the allegations on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.
Sampson tapped Gonzales aide Matthew Friedrich, who’d just left his post as chief of staff of the criminal division. In the first case, Friedrich agreed to find out whether Justice officials knew of “rampant” voter fraud or “lax” enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back.
But Friedrich declined to pursue a related matter from Wisconsin, he told congressional investigators, because an inquiry so close to an election could inappropriately sway voting results. Friedrich decided not to pass the matter on to the criminal division for investigation, even though Sampson gave him a 30-page report prepared by Republican activists that made claims of voting fraud.
While it was known that Rove and the White House had complained about prosecutors not aggressively investigating voter fraud, Friedrich’s testimony suggests that the Justice Department itself was under pressure to open voter fraud cases despite a department policy that discourages such action so close to an election.