Closing In

Brian Zick

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Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev for McClatchy report: Former deputy attorney general James Comey told a House Judiciary subcommittee that although it was his responsibility as the department's second-in-command to supervise the nation's top prosecutors, he was never told that the department and the White House had targeted some prosecutors for replacement.Comey's successor, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, told congressional investigators last week that he, too, was kept in the dark about the White House's role in the firings.Comey's and McNulty's accounts further undermine claims by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other department officials the prosecutors were fired for professional, not political, reasons. It also raises questions about the accuracy of statements made by other top Justice officials who've claimed that career lawyers helped decide who should be fired.According to a congressional aide, McNulty said he attended a White House meeting with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, and other officials on March 5, the day before McNulty's deputy William Moschella was to testify to Congress about the firings.White House officials told the Justice Department group that they needed to agree on clear reasons why each prosecutor was fired and explain them to Congress, McNulty said, according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the transcript of McNulty's interview hasn't been made public.McNulty said that White House officials never revealed during the meeting that they'd been discussing plans to replace some prosecutors with Gonzales aides, the congressional aide said.McNulty recalled feeling disturbed and concerned when he found out days later that the White House had been involved, the congressional aide said. McNulty considered the extent of White House coordination to be "extremely problematic." Josh Marshall poses the obvious question: Why do Rove and the other heavies from the White House need to tell these guys how important it is to get their stories straight? If I fire someone, I know why I fired them. I don't need to get my story straight unless the real reason can't be stated and I need to come up with a defensible and plausible alternative explanation. Mikey Isikoff for Newsweek reports: Deputy chief of staff Karl Rove participated in a hastily called meeting at the White House two months ago. The subject: The firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year. The purpose: to coach a top Justice Department official heading to Capitol Hill to testify on the prosecutorial purge on what he should say.Now some investigators are saying that Rove’s attendance at the meeting shows that the president’s chief political advisor may have been involved in an attempt to mislead Congress—one more reason they are demanding to see his emails and force him to testify under oath.At the March 5, 2007 meeting, White House aides, including counsel Fred Fielding and deputy counsel William Kelley, sought to shape testimony that principal associate deputy attorney general William Moscella was to give the next day before the House Judiciary Committee.

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