(Photo from a strangely prescient WaPo column dated 10/31/05, discussing whether Sampson would make a good
doppleganger replacement for Rove if he had to resign. Intriguing how these two keep popping up together, isn't it? And even have the same taste in ties.)
It is shaping up to be quite an interesting morning. It seems that Kyle Sampson's testimony has been leaked out everywhere in advance of the Senate Judiciary committee meeting — which screams political stage management to me, and it says that Mr. Sampson, Mr. Rove, Sen. Hatch and others have been talking about how to manage the political fall-out. Both the WaPo and the NYTimes have bits and pieces up this morning, but it is this bit from the NYTimes that caught my eye:
“The distinction between ‘political’ and ‘performance related’ reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial,” Mr. Sampson plans to say, according to his statement.
The statement says a failure to execute the priorities of the Justice Department or “work constructively with other governmental constituencies in the district” amounts to a political and a performance problem, eliminating the distinction.
“To my knowledge,” the statement adds, none of the prosecutors were removed to affect a specific case for partisan advantage.
Mr. Sampson is to explain that he prepared a list of prosecutors to remove with input from the White House and senior department officials. It is unclear how much he knows about all the motives for the removals, because a Justice Department official like him would typically have little access to internal White House deliberations.
On Wednesday, Justice Department officials acknowledged that they provided incorrect information to Congress in a letter on Feb. 23 drafted by Mr. Sampson and approved by the White House counsel. The letter said that “the department is not aware” of the president’s adviser Karl Rove “playing any role” in the decision to appoint his former deputy, J. Timothy Griffin, as interim United States attorney in Arkansas.
The letter was written weeks after Mr. Sampson wrote in other messages that Mr. Griffin’s appointment was “important to Harriet, Karl, etc.,” referring to Mr. Rove and Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel at the time.
The messages describe an aide to Mr. Rove, J. Scott Jennings, holding conference calls with Justice Department officials about how to have Mr. Griffin installed despite Senate opposition.
And so we come back to the question of the Miers and Rove testimony. And the new GOP meme of "this is all just a witch hunt," which was trotted out with abandon in the sophomoric and rude antics of Rep. Mica during yesterday's GSA hearing. Josh hits the nail on the head this morning:
This is all about the investigation and what it may or may not uncover. But Sampson's claim and conceit is not so much that he and his crew are innocent of the charge but that the charge doesn't even really exist, that it's all just a misunderstanding or a witch-hunt. What he did is fine, he says. The problem is just the "confusion, misunderstanding and embarrassment" caused by how the thing was handled.
So, have your eyes out for Sampson's word play and games. This investigation is about whether Sampson and his crew corrupted the justice system by purging US Attorneys who wouldn't use their prosecutorial powers to help the Republican party.
In the end, as with everything else that Karl Rove ever touches, it is always about "the math." Mr. Sampson's testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 am ET — so buckle up. It could be a bumpy ride this morning.