More evidence emerges in Attorneygate-Little Rock

We wrote two weeks ago about one of the more startling examples of cronyism to emerge from the U.S. attorney scandal now engulfing Washington: the brazen move to replace Arkansas' Eastern District attorney Bud Cummins with Karl Rove's chosen replacement, J. Timothy Griffin.

The process alone was suspect: President Bush used provisions in the Patriot Act to install Griffin as an "interim attorney" even before Cummins had "resigned." Outrage only grew when it became clear that Griffin's resume largely consisted of partisan experience at the Republican National Committee and as part of the Bush 2000 Recount Team in Florida, often working directly with Rove. Griffin was also directly involved in purging the names of 70,000 voters in Arkansas, including soldiers who were flagged as suspect because they couldn't be reached at their voting address (they were deployed to Iraq).

Today's Washington Post has more evidence of the lengths the administration went to to install Griffin:

Two months before Bud Cummins was fired as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, a protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove was maneuvering with the Justice Department to take his place.

Last April, Tim Griffin, a Rove aide and longtime GOP operative, sent the attorney general's chief of staff a flattering letter about himself written by Cummins, the prosecutor he was trying to replace, internal e-mails released this week show. Rove and Harriet Miers, then the White House counsel, were keenly interested in putting him in the position, e-mails reveal.

New documents also show that Justice and White House officials were preparing for President Bush's approval of the appointment as early as last summer, five months before Griffin took the job. [...]

The e-mails show how D. Kyle Sampson, then the attorney general's chief of staff, and other Justice officials prepared to use a change in federal law to bypass input from Arkansas' two Democratic senators, who had expressed doubts about placing a former Republican National Committee operative in charge of a U.S. attorney's office. The evidence runs contrary to assurances from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that no such move had been planned.

"This was a very loyal soldier to the Republicans and the Bush administration, and they wanted to reward him," said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). "They had every right to do this, but it's the way they handled it, and the way they tried to cover their tracks and mislead Congress, that has turned this into a fiasco for them."