The Justice Department investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys has been extended to encompass allegations that senior White House officials played a role in providing false and misleading information to Congress, according to numerous sources involved in the inquiry.But the kicker is this:
The widened scope raises the possibility that investigators will pursue criminal charges against some administration officials, and recommend appointment of a special prosecutor if there is evidence of criminal misconduct.
The investigators have been specifically probing the role of White House officials in the drafting and approval of a Feb. 23, 2007 letter sent to Congress by the Justice Department denying that Karl Rove (President Bush's chief political adviser at the time) had anything to do with the firing of Bud Cummins, a U.S. Attorney from Arkansas. Cummins was fired in Dec. 2006 to make room for Tim Griffin, a protégé and former top aide of Rove's.
The February 23 letter stated, "The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin," and that the Justice Department was "not aware of anyone lobbying, either inside or outside of the administration, for Mr. Griffin's appointment."
Federal investigators have obtained documents showing that Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Chris Oprison, then an associate White House counsel, drafted and approved the letter even though they had first-hand knowledge that the assertions were not true. The Justice Department later had to repudiate the Sampson-Oprison letter and sent a new one informing Congress that it could no longer stand by the earlier assertions.
If the IG and OPR believe that there is evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing, or evidence of wrongdoing by officials outside its jurisdiction altogether, they can recommend that the Justice Department initiate a criminal investigation.Yeah, Bush's Justice Department. Not gonna happen. Might under an Obama Justice Department, but Obama's been pretty non-committal on that front while in election mode.
Well, at least there's this consolation:
One senior Bush administration official told me that White House staffers talk about their "nightmare scenario" in which any one of the three currently internal DOJ probes "spins out of control" and leads to the appointment of a special prosecutor with broad authority.At least they're having nightmares...