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Rove Investigator Himself Under Investigation

Rove Investigator Himself Under Investigation

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Tuesday 24 April 2007

A federal investigation into the political activities of Karl Rove, announced late Monday, is being headed by a Bush appointee who is currently the target of an internal White House probe - calling into question the integrity of the administration's efforts to conduct an independent review of Rove's work as White House political adviser.

The news underscores how deeply the Bush administration is mired in scandal.

Scott J. Bloch, who heads the Office of Special Counsel, told the Los Angeles Times Monday that his office will launch a wide-ranging investigation into Rove's involvement in the firings of eight US attorneys, his behind-the-scenes work to influence elections, and his use of a Republican National Committee email account to conduct official White House business, in what appears to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

However, the Los Angeles Times failed to inform its readers that Bloch had been accused of retaliating against employees who disagreed with his policies, and intimidating them before they were questioned about a whistle-blower investigation inside the Office of the Special Counsel. The whistle-blower probe was launched by the White House's Office of Personnel Management inspector general nearly two years ago, according to a February 16, 2007 story in the Washington Post.

Bloch vehemently denied the allegations at the time. On Tuesday, a spokesman in his office reiterated Bloch's position and insisted that the special counsel would still be able to conduct an independent review of Rove's work for the past six years, regardless of the accusations against him.

Some Democratic Congressional leaders, such as Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the Government Oversight Committee, who is also looking into Rove's use of RNC email accounts, as well as his role in the firing of the US attorneys, would not immediately comment on the announcement that Bloch's office is spearheading the probe into Rove's work. However, there are concerns among Democratic officials on Capitol Hill that the investigation as headed by Bloch would amount to a whitewash.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Bloch's own questionable behavior as special counsel makes him the "wrong choice" to investigate Rove.

"Having transformed [the Office of the Special Counsel] into a virtual black hole for legitimate complaints of retaliation, Bloch is decidedly not the right person to tackle the issues of misconduct and illegality that surround top White House officials," Sloan said, "There is a serious question as to whether Bloch will just provide cover for an administration that has been covering for him."

In fact, some of the issues Bloch would be in charge of looking into related to Rove's activities in the US attorneys scandal, such as claims that some federal prosecutors were not in sync with White House policies on a variety of issues, mirror Bloch's alleged behavior involving his own employees.

"The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been investigating allegations by current and former OSC employees that Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch retaliated against underlings who disagreed with his policies - by, among other means, transferring them out of state - and tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases to reduce the office backlog," the Washington Post reported. "The probe is the most serious of many problems at the agency since Bloch, a Kansas lawyer who served at the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, was appointed by President Bush three years ago. Since he took the helm in 2004, staffers at the OSC, a small agency of about 100 lawyers and investigators, have accused him of a range of offenses, from having an anti-gay bias to criticizing employees for wearing short skirts and tight pants to work."

A January 13, 2005 story in The New Standard said employees in the Office of the Special Counsel retained a private attorney to protest Bloch's orders that at least 12 staffers in the department move to another city or lose their jobs so Bloch could hire individuals who agree with his policies. In a strange twist, these employees accused Bloch of selectively "purging" employees from his department, a word now associated with the US attorney firings, and an area that Bloch says he will investigate to determine if wrongdoing took place.

The New Standard report said a representative for some of the employees in the Office of the Special Counsel had reason to believe that their reassignments "amount to an attempted "purge."

"They further suggest that Special Counsel Scott Bloch is gradually doing away with his critics while making way for pliant, fresh-faced replacements, fitting a pattern of "cronyism" they allege he has engaged in throughout most of his thirteen-month tenure as head of OSC," the New Standard reported in a January 13, 2005 story.

In February, "the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Project on Government Oversight, the Government Accountability Project and Human Rights Campaign and a lawyer for the OSC employees protested in a letter to legislators and to Clay Johnson III, the Office of Management and Budget deputy who ordered the OSC probe," the Post reported

"The OSC's memo, the group said, "was only the latest in a series of actions by Bloch to obstruct the investigation. "Other actions have included suggestions that all witnesses interviewed ... provide Bloch with affidavits describing what they had been asked and how they responded," according to the Post.

Whether Bloch can truly be effective in the investigation into Rove's political work will likely be an issue of further debate.

Bloch believes he can be. He told the Los Angeles Times Monday that his office "will not leave any stone unturned."

"We will take the evidence where it leads us," Bloch told the Times.


Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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