Karl Rove in the George W. Bush administration
Karl Rove's career in U.S. President George W. Bush's administration began shortly after the first inauguration of George W. Bush in January 2001. He was appointed Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President, which nicknamed him "Boy Genius" and "Turd Blossom". Rove was reassigned from his policy development role to one focusing on strategic and tactical planning in April 2006, the same month that Joshua Bolten replaced Andrew Card as White House Chief of Staff.
White House Iraq Group
In 2002 and 2003 Rove chaired meetings of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), an internal White House working group established in August 2002, eight months prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. WHIG was charged with developing a strategy "for publicizing the White House's assertion that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States." WHIG's existence and membership was first identified in a Washington Post article by Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus on August 10, 2003; members of WHIG included Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio, and communication strategists Mary Matalin, Karen Hughes, and James R. Wilkinson.
Quoting one unnamed WHIG member, the Washington Post explained that the task force's mission was to “educate the public” about the threat posed by Saddam and (in the reporters' words) "[to] set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad". Rove's "strategic communications" task force within WHIG helped write and coordinate speeches by senior Bush administration officials, emphasizing Iraq's purported nuclear threat.
2004 George W. Bush Presidential Re-election Campaign
Valerie Plame affair
On August 29, 2003, retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV claimed that Rove leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, in retaliation for Wilson's op-ed in The New York Times in which he criticized the Bush administration's citation of the yellowcake documents among the justifications for the War in Iraq enumerated in Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address.
In late August 2006 it became known that Richard L. Armitage was responsible for the leak. The investigation led to felony charges being filed against Lewis "Scooter" Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice. Eventually, Libby was found guilty by a jury.
On June 13, 2006, prosecutors determined there was no cause to charge Rove with any wrongdoing. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald stated previously that "I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded."
On July 13, 2006, Plame unsuccessfully sued Cheney, Rove, Libby, and others, accusing them of conspiring to destroy her career.
Scott McClellan's book
Scott McClellan claims in his book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, published in the spring of 2008 by Public Affairs Books, that the statements he made in 2003 about Rove's lack of involvement in the Valerie Plame affair were untrue, and that he had been encouraged to repeat such untruths. His book has been widely disputed, however, with many key members of McClellan's own staff telling a completely different story. Former CNN commentator Robert Novak has questioned if McClelland wrote the book himself. It was also revealed that the publisher was seeking a negative book to increase sales.
2006 Congressional elections and beyond
On October 24, 2006, two weeks before the Congressional election, in an interview with National Public Radio's Robert Siegel, Rove insisted that his insider polling data forecast Republican retention of both houses:
- SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.
- ROVE: No, you are not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week for candidates for the US House and US Senate, and Governor and you may be looking at 4-5 public polls a week that talk attitudes nationally.
- SIEGEL: I don't want to have you to call races...
- ROVE: I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to the math.
In the election the Democrats won both houses of Congress. The White House Bulletin, published by Bulletin News, cited rumors of Rove's impending departure from the White House staff: "'Karl represents the old style and he's got to go if the Democrats are going to believe Bush's talk of getting along', said a key Bush advisor." However, while allowing that many Republican members of Congress are "resentful of the way he and the White House conducted the losing campaign", the New York Times also stated that, "White House officials say President Bush has every intention of keeping Mr. Rove on through the rest of his term."
Prior to the election, Rove voiced impatience with the notion that his own reputation is on the ballot. He told the Washington Post, "I understand some will see the election as a judgment on me, but the fact of the matter is that, look what has been set in motion: a broader, deeper, strengthened Republican Party, and with an emphasis on grass-roots neighbor-to-neighbor politics, is going to continue." After the election, Rove continued to express optimism, telling the Post, "The Republican philosophy is alive and well and likely to reemerge in the majority in 2008." Rove also told the Post that the GOP election strategy was working until the Mark Foley scandal put the Republican campaign "back on its heels". Rove added "We were on a roll, and [the Foley scandal] stopped it.... It revived all the stuff about Jack Abramoff and added to it."
In Rove's analysis, 10 of the 28 House seats Republicans lost were sacrificed because of various scandals. Another six, he said, were lost because incumbents did not recognize and react quickly enough to the threat. Rove argued that, without corruption and complacency, The Democrats would have gained around a dozen seats and Republicans could have kept narrow control of the House regardless of Bush's troubles and the war.
In analyzing the results of the 2006 midterm election, Rove told Time:
- The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected ... Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass... Iraq mattered, but it was more frustration than it was an explicit call for withdrawal. If this was a get-out-now call for withdrawal, then Lamont would not have been beaten by Lieberman. Iraq does play a role, but not the critical, central role.
Rove defended the role of the Republican get-out-the-vote program he helped invent. He told Time:
- I see this as much more of a transient, passing thing ... [T]he Republican Party remains at its core a small-government, low-tax, limit-spending, traditional-values, strong-defense party. I see the power of the ideas, even in a tough year ... People were talking 35, 40 or more and it didn't happen. There were a number of elections which were supposed to be close and ended up not being close.
He added that he has "fundamental confidence in the power of the underlying agenda of this President", and cited fighting the war on terror, tax cuts, immigration, welfare, and legal reform, reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, reducing trade barriers, restrained spending.
In the January 29, 2007 issue of Newsweek, GOP activist Grover Norquist described how Rove showed up at a weekly meeting of influential D.C. conservatives early in the month, surprising attendees with his bubbly demeanor after weeks of rumors that he might be headed out. Norquist was quoted as saying "I think some people had given him up for dead, but he was good old Karl, upbeat and enthusiastic." At the meeting Rove previewed Bush's final two years in office, saying Social Security reform was likely off the table and that Iraq and the economy would be the biggest issues for 2008. "I don't know anyone who holds him personally responsible for what happened to us in the election", said a GOP national committee member, who declined to be named talking about the inner circle. "But his stature isn't quite the same." According to Newsweek, "behind the scenes, according to administration officials (anonymous in order to discuss White House matters), Rove has been laying the groundwork for Bush's State of the Union address and mulling how the GOP can regain momentum in 2008 ... Rove has been busy trying to find common ground with Dems, organizing two meetings between Bush and the Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of conservative lawmakers who offer the White House its best chance at compromise with the new Congress. Rove also sat in on many of Bush's meetings with members of Congress in recent weeks about Iraq."
Dismissal of U.S. Attorneys
Allen Weh, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House aide for Rove, asking that Iglesias be removed. In 2006, Rove personally told Weh that Iglesias had been dismissed. Weh was dissatisfied with Iglesias due in part to his failure to indict New Mexico State Senator Manny Aragon on fraud and conspiracy charges. After Iglesias was dismissed, his replacement, Acting U.S. Attorney Larry Gomez brought a 26 count felony indictment against Aragon. In a plea bargain, Aragon plead guilty to three felony fraud counts. Weh followed up with, "There’s nothing we’ve done that's wrong. It wasn’t that Iglesias wasn’t looking out for Republicans. He just wasn’t doing his job, period.”" White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that Rove "wasn’t involved in who was going to be fired or hired".
On July 30, 2009, after giving closed door testimony before Congress, Rove gave interviews to the New York Times and the Washington Post in which he revealed that he had suggested Timothy Griffin, his former aide, for a government post. He stated that if there was an available government post, Griffin should be hired. Griffin was subsequently given the U.S. Attorney post in Arkansas, replacing Henry Cummins, whom the Bush administration claimed had been planning on retiring. Cummins denied that.
On March 14, 2007 former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald said he believes Rove was trying to influence the selection in reaction to pressure from Rep. Dennis Hastert, then Speaker of the House and a political ally of then-Gov. George Ryan, who knew Fitzgerald was seeking someone from outside Illinois to attack political corruption.
On July 26, 2007 Senator Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee was issuing a subpoena for Rove to appear personally before the committee and testify, following Gonzales' testimony on the U.S. Attorney dismissal controversy and other matters.
On July 30, 2008, a U.S. Congressional panel voted 20-14 to hold Rove in Contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to testify in its probe into suspected political interference at the Justice Department.
On May 14, 2009 the New York Times reported that Rove would soon be interviewed by Federal Prosecutors investigating the firings of the US Attorneys, and by investigators for the House Judiciary Committee. On July 30, 2009, after two days of in-camera testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Rove again told reporters, he had played only a "peripheral role" in the firings. On August 11, 2009, the New York Times reported that previously classified White House emails, showed Rove had played a more central role than he had claimed. The New York Times also reported that the emails detailed a lobbying effort by Rove to have a protégé of his, Timothy Griffin, appointed US Attorney for Arkansas, after the incumbent, Bud Cummins, had been pressured to resign.
Due to investigations into White House staffers' e-mail communication related to the controversy over the dismissal of United States Attorneys, it was discovered that many White House staff members, including Rove, had exchanged documents using Republican National Committee e-mail servers such as gwb43.com and georgewbush.com or personal e-mail accounts with third party providers such as BlackBerry, considered a violation of the Presidential Records Act. Over 500 of Rove's emails were mistakenly sent to a parody website, who forwarded them to an investigative reporter.
Resignation from the White House
In a Wall Street Journal interview published on August 13, 2007 Rove revealed that he would resign from the Administration effective August 31. In a statement, he said, "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family".
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- Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus (2001-08-10). "Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence". Washington Post.
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- "President Bush Thanks Americans in Wednesday Acceptance Speech". White House press release. 2004-11-03.
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- "REPORT: Karl Rove May Be Leaving The White House In 'Weeks, Not Months'". Bulletin News cited on the blog of the Center for American Progress. 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
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- Zajac, Andrew (March 14, 2007). "Fitzgerald: Rove tried to limit choice". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-03-12.
- F.B.I. Chief Challenges Gonzales’s Testimony - New York Times
- Karl Rove, Harriet Miers To Testify Before House Judiciary Committee, Huffington Post, 4 March 2009.
- David Johnson (2009-05-14). "Prosecutors Reportedly Set to Interview Rove". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- David Johnson (2009-07-30). "Rove Says His Role in Prosecutor Firings Was Small". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Eric Lichtblau, Eric Lipton (2009-08-11). "E-Mail Reveals Rove’s Key Role in ’06 Dismissals". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Steve Holland (April 13, 2007). "Rove in new controversy over e-mails". Reuters.
- "Rove Exhibits Part 1" (PDF). U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. pp. 50, 55, 113 etc. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- Paul Bedard (March 27, 2007). "E-mail Controversy Prompts Many Aides To Stop Usage". US News & World Report.
- Karl Rove Emails Mistakenly Sent to Reporter
- Mckinnon, John D. (2007-08-13). "Karl Rove to Resign At the End of August". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Steve Goldstein (2007). "Karl Rove tells WSJ he's going to resign at end of August". Wall Street Journal: MarketWatch. Retrieved 2007-08-13.