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the Ashcroft-Rove Connection

There’s an old saying that you should never let a fox guard the henhouse. The same could be said of the investigation into the latest White House scandal. Attorney General John Ashcroft is refusing to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate who in the administration leaked the name of a CIA operative to journalists. This despite the fact that Ashcroft has long-standing ties to one of the main suspects: President Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove.

“I think it’s very difficult on its surface for John Ashcroft to be taken seriously as an investigator,” said James Moore, author of Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W Bush Presidential/, in an interview with Democracy Now!. “In this case, there is a close relationship between someone who is a high profile suspect and the individual who is leading the investigation of him. And it immediately goes to the question of credibility and validity of that particular investigation.”

Rove has been accused of leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, in retaliation for her husband, veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson, blowing the whistle on the Bush administration’s charge that Saddam Hussein attempted to import uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger.

Rove is best known as the driving force behind Bush’s taking of the presidency, but he also worked for Ashcroft over the course of two decades.

“It goes all the way back to the mid 1980’s when John Ashcroft first ran for governor and then when he ran for the United States Senate against Mel Carnahan,” says Moore. “Karl was so intimately involved.”

Not only did Rove work for Ashcroft in the 80s, but he was one of the main forces behind Ashcroft’s controversial appointment to the job he currently holds, attorney general. Rove lobbied intensely for his former employer’s nomination after Ashcroft lost his senate seat to a dead man, the late Mel Carnahan.

While Ashcroft was not Bush’s first choice for attorney general, Rove reportedly told Bush that spilling some blood over the nomination of the fiercely right-wing Ashcroft was “a no-lose proposition.”

Just as George W. Bush profited handsomely from the building of a stadium for his Texas Rangers baseball team, Karl Rove cashed in from the successful campaign in St. Louis to get a stadium built. The governor who signed the legislation?

John Ashcroft.

Now attorney general, Ashcroft is refusing to hand over the reigns of the criminal investigation of his political ally, former employee and longtime advisor, Karl Rove.

For the past several days, the White House has been besieged with questions on the “burning” of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Scott McClellan, the press secretary and other officials have offered only carefully worded and non-specific responses to reporters’ questions as to who leaked the identity of Wilson’s wife.

“It is impossible for any of us to believe that this happened without Karl knowing about it,” says author James Moore. “When you cross this man in the political arena, he gets even; and he gets even in a way that he doesn’t just defeat you, he is compelled to destroy you. He doesn’t know how to do a measured response when he is angry, and so he leaks information about people that destroys them.”

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC poll, 69% of Americans believe there should be a special counsel independent of the administration investigating the White House leak. Yet, in his only news conference to date on the issue, Ashcroft stood firm that his office will oversee the investigation. “The prosecutors and agents who are and will be handling this investigation are career professionals with extensive experience in handling matters involving sensitive national security information and with experience relating to investigations of unauthorized disclosures of such information.”

At the Justice Department news conference, a reporter attempted to question Ashcroft further, “Can you at least say what assurances you can give people that the matter will be handled independently without… ”

Ashcroft interrupted, “Are there other questions today?”

Yes there are. But an independent counsel should be asking them.

Democracy Now! is a daily national grassroots radio/tv newshour. Research assistance for this article was provided by producers Mike Burke and Sharif Abdel Kouddous. www.democracynow.org. They can be reached at: jeremy@democracynow.org

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