Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Reports in both the mainstream and Web press indicate that Karl Rove, in his testimony before representatives of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, denied involvement in the Don Siegelman case.
There is only one problem with those reports: They are not true.
So why would The Birmingham News run a story with the headline: "Rove Denies Role in Siegelman Case"? Why would veteran broadcast journalist Tim Lennox write a blog post with the title: "The Siegelman-Rove (Non) Connection"?
Well, The Birmingham News has long been a right-wing tool that never has made an honest effort at seeking the truth in the Siegelman story. Lennox has a reputation as a solid and fair reporter, so I can only assume that he just had an off day. For one thing, he links to the News story, indicating he relied on it for his analysis. That was his first mistake, right there.
Like many depositions, the Rove/Elliot Mincberg encounter took a number of twists and turns. Similar questions were asked multiple times, with slight variations. Rove gave slightly varying answers, appearing to contradict himself in one or two instances.
But the inquiry came down to two "money questions." In both instances, the question essentially was this: Did Rove, or anyone working for him, ever have any communications with anyone about a possible criminal investigation or prosecution of Don Siegelman?
Rove’s answer both times? "Not that I’m aware of."
That is not a denial.
What is it? It’s an illustration of one of the legal profession’s dirty secrets. I’m told that it is common for lawyers to coach clients on how to obscure the truth without technically lying under oath. The way to do it is with answers like "not that I’m aware of," "I don’t recall," or "I don’t remember."
I call it the "tap dance around perjury." And to no one’s surprise, Rove was well versed on all the tap dance’s various steps. His 67 pages worth of testimony about the Siegelman case was filled with "tap dance" answers.
Mincberg essentially asked two sets of questions, focusing on–(1) the period from Siegelman’s election in 1998 to the end of 2002; and (2) the period from the end of 2002 to the release of the Montgomery indictment in October 2005.
Here is a sample question and answer from the first set:
Q All right. Let’s go back if we could, then, to the line 80
we had just started relating to contacts — relating to Governor Siegelman through the end of 2002. In the period of time, again, between Governor Siegelman’s election and the end of 2002, did you ever communicate about Governor Siegelman with anyone working at the Department of Justice?
That is an outright denial on Rove’s part. But his answers to followup questions quickly become slippery. When asked if anyone from the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA), Republican National Committee (RNC), or Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) communicated with the Justice Department, Rove’s answer is "not to the best of my knowledge."
Rove specifically is asked if he had communicated about the Siegelman case with Noel Hillman, then head of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section. The answer: "No, not that I recall."
Note that Rove earlier had emphatically answered no about communicating with anyone at DOJ regarding Siegelman. But when asked about communicating with Noel Hillman, a key figure at the DOJ, Rove’s answer is that he doesn’t recall. So much for consistency.
Mincberg goes on to ask if Rove or anyone from any GOP-connected groups had communicated about Siegelman with:
* Any Alabama U.S. attorney’s office;
* The Alabama attorney general’s office or any other state law-enforcement agency;
* Bill Canary, head of the Business Council of Alabama;
* Bob Riley, Rob Riley, or anyone in the Riley administration; or
* Members of the media or press.
Rove’s answers were "not that I’m aware of" or "not that I recall." The only exception was regarding former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. Rove acknowledged a conversation with Pryor about Siegelman, but said he had not asked for any action to be taken.
Interestingly, when Rove was asked about the Rileys, his first response was: "Could you repeat that question?" Sounds like Rove needed to gather himself for that one.
What about the "money question," the one that covers everything from 1998 to 2002? Here is that question and answer:
Q Again, in the period of time between Governor Siegelman’s election and the end of 2002, did you or anyone working for you ever have any communications with anyone about a possible criminal investigation, prosecution, or illegal acts by Governor Siegelman?
A Not that I’m aware of.
What about the second "money question," the one that covers everything from 2002 to October 2005? In fact, this one covers the whole enchilada. Here is that question and answer:
Q Under penalty of prosecution under 18 U.S. Code 1001, do you stand by your statements that you had no communications, other than the ones you’ve testified to generally today relating to — relating to possible investigation, prosecution, or criminal acts by Governor Siegelman?
A I stand by my statement. I’m not aware of any conversations other than the ones I have indicated.
Again, no denial.
Speaking of non-denials, Rove was asked about Jill Simpson, the Alabama whistleblower who stated under oath that she overheard GOP operatives planning a political prosecution of Siegelman–and it was all worked out with "Karl." Here is that exchange:
Q Now, you also in this same article that we are referring to, state that you do not recall ever meeting or talking to Jill Simpson, the person who accused you of pressing for Siegelman to be investigated and claims to have met you. Under penalty of prosecution under 18 U.S. Code 1001, do you stand by your statements that you have never met or spoken to Jill Simpson?
A I have no recollection of meeting her or talking to her.
That was near the end of the deposition. By then, our guy Karl was slippery indeed.
The bottom line? The Rove/Mincberg deposition was not conclusive about much.
Did Mincberg nail Rove, with bombshell testimony or evidence that "Bush’s Brain" clearly was behind the Siegelman prosecution? No, but I doubt that any rational human being thought that was going to happen on this go-around.
Did Rove deny that he or his colleagues were involved? No.
Did the deposition lay ground for much more extensive inquiry. Definitely.