Rove's Role: New Disclosures

New disclosures in the U.S. attorney controversy have increased the pressure on White House aide Karl Rove. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's ex-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, testified last week that "during the run-up to the midterm elections," the A.G. told him Rove had "complained" that David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, and two other federal prosecutors, were not doing enough to prosecute voter fraud—a top GOP priority. It was shortly after that, Sampson said, that Iglesias got added to the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. (Iglesias told NEWSWEEK he had been repeatedly pushed by New Mexico GOP officials to prosecute workers for ACORN, an activist group that was registering voters in minority neighborhoods, but he found no cases worth bringing.) Justice was also forced to correct its earlier assertion that Rove did not play "any role" in replacing the U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Sampson's e-mails showed he had described the replacement as "important to ... Karl." Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy warned the White House that even a Gonzales resignation would not "short-circuit" his probe, vowing to block confirmation hearings for any successor unless he gets Rove under oath. (Bush has refused to allow Rove and other White House officials to testify in public.) White House spokeswoman Dana Perino reaffirmed Bush's "100 percent" backing of Gonzales, and the A.G. vowed to carry on.

The inquiries are only multiplying. The Office of Special Counsel has begun its own investigation into whether Iglesias's dismissal was a violation of both the Hatch Act (which prohibits federal employees from being fired for "political" reasons) and a law that bars discrimination against military-service members, said an official, anonymous when talking about an internal matter. Justice officials have at times suggested one reason Iglesias was fired is that he spent too much time away from the office because he is in the naval reserves. The agency's director, Scott Bloch, recently pledged "aggressive" enforcement of the law, which is increasingly important given the growing number of National Guard and military reserves called up for service in Iraq.