Monday, July 30, 2007
When Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy issued a subpoena for Karl Rove, the White House advisor and political operative sometime known as "Bush's brain" last Thursday, there he made clear he was attempting to compel Rove's testimony in the matter of the ongoing U.S. attorney firings scandal.
"The evidence shows that senior White House political operatives were focused on the political impact of federal prosecutions and whether federal prosecutors were doing enough to bring partisan voter fraud and corruption cases," Leahy said. "It is obvious that the reasons given for the firings of these prosecutors were contrived as part of a cover-up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort."
In private, Rove was not shy about sharing with people like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or presidential counsel Harriet Miers that he wanted the heads of several of the U.S. attorneys because they were not, in his view, aggressively pursuing trumped-up voter fraud cases against Democrats in their districts, as the White House had ordered them to do. Leahy knows this.
What Leahy may or may not know is that for several years, Rove, in conjunction with the Bush Justice Department, has been actively engaging in precisely the kinds of spurious manipulations of voter rolls which he falsely accused the Democrats of.
The same day that Leahy issued his subpoena for Rove, the website Truthout.org revealed the existence of previously undisclosed documents which show how Republican operatives under Rove's tutelage mounted in an illegal, racially-motivated effort to suppress tens of thousands of votes during the 2004 presidential campaign, concentrating most heavily on Ohio where George W. Bush was trailing the Democratic candidate John Kerry.
Emails obtained by Truthout show that Tim Griffin, a Republican National Committee staffer in 2004 and later appointed interim U.S. Attorney for Little Rock, Arkansas (a post he resigned when the U.S. attorneys scandal broke) led the Republican effort to purge black voters from the rolls in Cuyahoga County, Ohio as well as targeting minority voters in several other "battleground" states -- New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
The method Rove and Griffin used to try to suppress minority voting is an illegal tactic known as "caging." Political operatives send registered letters to the homes of registered voters. If the targeted voters fail to respond, the operatives try to convince local authorities to remove them from the rolls.
The RNC was caught engaging in this practice in 1981 and 1986. During the latter part of 1986 Republican National Committee officials signed an agreement to abstain from voter caging in the future, but that was 21 years ago, before Karl Rove was the White House's enchilada grande of political technique.
The two sets of documents obtained by Truthout also show that the RNC strategy for 2004 included contingency plans for contesting the results of the election in the event of a Democratic victory, by challenging the eligibility of voters in the same states where the caging efforts occurred, using the same lists of targeted voters employed in the pre-election suppression attempts. This strategy is laid out clearly in an email, dated September 30, 2004, and sent to a dozen staffers on the Bush-Cheney campaign and in the RNC, with the title "voter reg fraud strategy conference call."
Truthout reporter Jason Leopold adds that "Emails among Ohio Republican Party official Michael Magan, Coddy Johnson, then national field director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, and Timothy Griffin, reveal the men were given documents that could be used as evidence to justify widespread voter challenges if the Bush campaign needed to contest the election results. Johnson referred to the documents as a 'goldmine.' The valuable documents were lists of registered voters who did not return address confirmation forms to the Ohio Board of Elections."
Clearly, the RNC and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign were preparing for a scenario reminiscent of their tampering with voter rolls and subsequent suppression of a recount in Florida during the 2000 election. The full story of how that tainted election, which propelled Bush into office, was monkeywrenched by Republican operatives is detailed in Greg Palast's book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy."
Rove is scheduled to answer Leahy's subpoena this coming Thursday, August 2, but will probably not show up, moving the constitutional confrontation between the White House and Congress to the next level. In a letter to Rove and White House aide Scott Jennings which accompanied the Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena, Leahy wistfully reflected, "I am left to ask what the White House is so intent on hiding that it cannot even identify the documents, the dates, the authors and recipients that they claim are privileged."
Leahy is being somewhat disingenous. He knows perfectly well what the White House is hiding in the matter of the U.S. attorneys scandal. What is less clear is how much he knows about the deep background of the scandal -- the extent of the Republican habits of voter manipulation and election fraud which they piously accused others of engaging in as a pretext for a partisan purge of the Justice Department. It would be surprising indeed if Leahy was completely ignorant of these matters, and if he didn't have a few pointed questions for Karl Rove concerning them, once Rove is compelled by court decision to show up at the hearings and honor the hot seat which has been reserved for him with his ample posteriors.
Readers can view a more detailed account of this breaking story at Truthout.org