WASHINGTON—Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction with his job performance including his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.
In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Chairman Allen Weh said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.
Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys, including Iglesias, was made without the White House weighing in. Justice Department officials have said the White House's involvement was limited to approving a list of the U.S. attorneys after the Justice Department made the decision to fire them.
Rove could not be reached Saturday and the White House said it would have no immediate response. A Justice Department spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Weh's remarks come as Congress investigates the circumstances behind the firing of Iglesias and seven other U.S. attorneys. Democrats have charged the Bush administration tried to inject partisan politics into federal prosecutions in order to influence election outcomes.
Weh recalled asking Rove at a White House holiday event in December: "Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" What Weh didn't know was that the firings of Iglesias and the others had already been approved.
Weh said Rove told him: "`He's gone.' I probably said something close to `Hallelujah.'"
Weh said he doesn't know whether Rove was directly involved in the firing or merely familiar with Republican dissatisfaction with Iglesias.
But Weh insists this wasn't about partisan politics.
"There's nothing we've done that's wrong," he said. "It wasn't that Iglesias wasn't looking out for Republicans," he said. "He just wasn't doing his job, period."
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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