ABC News reports that new emails reveal that the plan for firing U.S. Attorneys originated in the White House. Both Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys in early January 2005. From the article:
New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than previously acknowledged by the White House.
The e-mails also show Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse while he was still White House counsel — weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.
The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers and was her idea alone.
UPDATE: ABC notes notes that the “latest e-mails show that Gonzales and Rove were both involved in the discussion, and neither rejected it out of hand.” That contradicts what Gonzales said during his press conference on Friday:
QUESTION: Can you explain what the White House role is specifically in your successor, Harriet Miers, suggested that perhaps all U.S. attorneys should be changed over? Is that the seed that started all of this? How does that connect to the actual terminations?
GONZALES: As we can all imagine, in an organization of 110,000 people, I am not aware of every bit of information that passes through the halls of the Department of Justice, nor am I aware of all decisions. As a general matter, some two years ago, I was made aware that there was a request from the White House as to the possibility of replacing all the United States attorneys. That was immediately rejected by me. I felt that that was a bad idea and it was disruptive.
UPDATE II: On March 6, the White House denied Rove was involved at all:
Q How about Karl Rove’s office? Do you know if he was involved?
DANA PERINO: I don’t believe so.
UPDATE III: On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that Miers had suggested firing all 93 attorneys, and that it was “her idea only.” He added that it “was quickly rejected by the Department of Justice.” But e-mails show that Miers suggested it in Feb. 2005; it was raised by Rove and Gonzales “in early January 2005.”
UPDATE IV: Earlier in the week, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said “deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, the president’s top political adviser, vaguely recalls telling Miers that he also thought firing all 93 was ill — advised.”
UPDATE V: Read the full email:
In the email, which has the subject line “Re: Question from Karl Rove,” Kyle Sampson, who was then at the Justice Department, discusses with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch the idea of replacing “15–20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys,” because “80–85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc.”
“[I]f Karl thinks there would be policitical will to do it, then so do I,” Sampson concludes.
UPDATE VI: House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) react to the news.
UPDATE VII: Paul Kiel has a statement from the Justice Department:
“The Attorney General has no recollection of any plan or discussion to replace U.S. Attorneys while he was still White House Counsel. The period of time referred to in the email was during the weeks he was preparing for his confirmation hearing, January 6th, 2005, and his focus was on that. Of course, discussions of changes in Presidential appointees would have been appropriate and normal White House exchanges in the days and months after the election as the White House was considering different personnel changes Administration wide.”