WASHINGTON - -After years of silence, top Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove went on a public relations offensive Thursday, saying he did nothing wrong in the controversial firings of nine U.S. attorneys and that soon-to-be-released White House documents and his closed-door congressional testimony on the subject will bear that out.
Rove's comments, made through his lawyer Robert D. Luskin, prompted immediate charges of foul play by congressional Democrats, who accused him of sidestepping an agreement not to discuss his two days of closed-door testimony about the firings before the House Judiciary Committee.
That testimony, which wrapped up Thursday, came only after a hard-fought and protracted legal battle in which Rove and some other senior Bush administration officials refused to testify or otherwise cooperate in what the White House said was a partisan witch-hunt by congressional Democrats who believed the top prosecutors were fired because they refused to go along with the Republican political agenda.
As a compromise, Rove agreed to field questions from one congressman and one staff lawyer from each party.
Also in the room were various staff members and lawyers from congressional officers, the Bush and Obama White Houses and the Justice Department, which appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the U.S. attorney firings for possible criminal violations.
During several years of controversy over the firings, other Bush administration officials have defended their actions - and Rove's - saying that Bush's political adviser was merely passing along complaints from some Republicans about various U.S. attorneys, particularly David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, Bud Cummins in Arkansas and Missouri's Todd Graves.
Until Thursday, however, Rove himself had declined to comment, Luskin said. But he made prearranged deals with The New York Times and Washington Post, under which he allowed them to see some of his e-mails on the subject of the U.S. attorneys that the White House had so jealously guarded. He also gave an interview with both newspapers in which he insisted he had done nothing wrong.
"There has been a lot of speculation about what his role might have been and not much from him that would clarify it," Luskin said of Rove. "I think there was a feeling that the time had come for him to lay out his understanding of those events, following the conclusion of his testimony before the House committee."