Karl Rove, former top White House adviser to President George W. Bush, finished two days of closed-door testimony to Congress on Thursday, as Democrats continue to probe the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.
Previously released Justice Department documents show that as early as January 2005, Rove questioned whether the nation's 94 U.S. attorneys should all be replaced at the start of Bush's second term and that to some degree he worked to get certain prosecutors dismissed.
The nine U.S. attorneys were fired in part for apparently not being sufficiently loyal to the Republican administration. The ensuing uproar led to a series of damaging revelations about the Bush administration's political meddling with the Justice Department and the eventual resignation of then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales.
In an interview with The Washington Post and The New York Times, which both newspapers posted on their Web sites Thursday, Rove said he played a minimal role in the firing decisions, even as e-mails quoted by the papers show his keen interest in getting a particular former deputy hired as the U.S. attorney in Arkansas.
"Hire him," Rove wrote in one 2005 e-mail quoted by The Times.
Rove claimed he acted simply as a conduit for other Republicans' complaints about the job performance of specific U.S. attorneys.
Democrats aren't buying it.
"It's hardly surprising that Mr. Rove would minimize his involvement in the U.S. attorney firings or that selectively leaked documents would serve his version of events," said House Judiciary Committee spokesman Jonathan Godfrey, who argued Rove's role "was more substantial than his statements to the media indicate."