Prosecutors to question Rove on lawyer firings

/ Source: and NBC News

Former top White House official Karl Rove will be interviewed Friday as part of an ongoing probe into the firing of U.S. attorneys during the Bush administration, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Rove, who has continued to work as a political analyst since leaving the White House, will be questioned by Connecticut prosecutor Nora R. Dannehy. Last year Dannehy began to examine whether any former senior Justice Department and White House officials lied or obstructed justice in connection with the dismissal of federal prosecutors in 2006, the Post reported.

An earlier Justice Department inquiry concluded that despite Bush administration denials, political considerations played a part in the firings of as many as four federal prosecutors. Nine U.S. attorneys in all were fired in 2006.

U.S. attorneys are political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president, but cannot be fired for improper reasons. Bush administration officials at first claimed the attorneys were let go because of poor performance.

Tom Carson, a spokesman for Dannehy, declined to comment, the Post reported.

A lawyer for Rove said Rove has indicated before that he'd be willing to talk to the prosecutor looking into the firings, which took place under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"Mr. Rove has consistently said he would cooperate with the investigation," said his lawyer, Robert Luskin. Luskin declined to specify the time or place for Rove's interview. Government officials familiar with the process do not deny the Post story.

Dannehy is the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut. She was given the assignment of sorting out the firings last fall by Michael Mukasey, who was then attorney general.

She has already questioned one of Rove's former assistants, Scott Jennings.

Firings led to a housecleaning
The U.S. attorney firings led to a housecleaning at the Justice Department, with resignations by Gonzales, top deputy Paul McNulty, White House liaison Monica Goodling, and Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson.

The internal Justice investigation recommended a criminal inquiry, saying the lack of cooperation by Rove and other senior administration officials left gaps in their findings that should be investigated further. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey responded by naming Dannehy, the acting U.S. attorney in Connecticut, as special prosecutor in September.

Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers also have agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee under oath about the firings in closed depositions. President George W. Bush had fought attempts to force them to testify.

In July, U.S. District Judge John Bates rejected Bush's contention that senior White House advisers were immune from the committee's subpoenas, siding with Congress' power to investigate the executive branch. The Bush administration had appealed the decision. The agreement for Rove and Miers to testify ended the lawsuit.

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams contributed to this report.