Former White House adviser Karl Rove took the opportunity of a book signing in Birmingham, Alabama on Tuesday to deny once again that he was behind the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman — but also to welcome an old friend.
About two dozen Rove supporters had showed up at the bookstore, but there were almost as many protesters outside with signs reading “Investigate Karl Rove/ Free Don” and “Rove is the one who should be in prison.”
The most noteworthy attendee at the book signing, however, was former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who launched the first investigation into Siegelman in March 1999, just a few weeks after he was inaugurated as governor. That investigation was taken over by Bush-appointed US Attorneys in 2001 and eventually led to Siegelman’s conviction on bribery charges.
According to the Locust Fork News-Journal, when Rove saw Pryor approaching on Tuesday, “he smiled real big and said, ‘Hey, Bud!'” Pryor’s friendship with Rove dates to at least 1998, when Rove managed Pryor’s campaign for reelection as attorney general, and the two men also enjoyed a close social relationship.
Pryor’s antagonism towards former Governor Siegelman goes back at least as far, starting in 1997, when then-Lieutenant Governor Siegelman criticized Pryor for being reluctant to join a lawsuit brought by other states against the major tobacco companies. At the time, Rove was strategizing with the tobacco interests, as well as being a senior advisor to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush.
In May 2002, a landfill developer named Clayton Lamar (Lanny) Young told federal prosecutors that he had made tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations to Alabama politicians, including Pryor and Senator Jeff Sessions. None of the Republicans named by Young were even investigated by the US Attorney’s office, but he became a chief witness in the case against Don Siegelman.
And the following November, when Siegelman was defeated for reelection by a razor-thin margin, it was Pryor who ordered the ballots sealed, preventing a recount that could have challenged the result. Pryor was nominated to a federal judgeship a few months later by then-President George W. Bush and was eventually installed by a recess appointment.
As well as greeting his old friend, Rove also took the opportunity of the book-signing to repeat his previous denials of having had anything to do with the Siegelman prosecution. “Governor Siegelman violated the trust of the people of Alabama,” he told reporters before the event. “He was tried by a jury of Alabamians and found guilty.”
“He has every right to go around and say whatever he wants,” Rove continued, “but what he is saying is a lie.”
Rove’s assertion that he has no connection with the Siegelman case is nothing new. In 2008, he was asked about it on ABC’s This Week and responded, somewhat evasively, “I found out about Don Siegelman’s investigation and indictment by reading about it in the newspaper.”
In 2009, Rove went further, telling the House Judiciary Committee under oath that he had in no way instigated the prosecution. “Did I reach out for anybody in law enforcement and … ask for any action to be taken or — no,” Rove testified. “I had a lot more pressing things on my platter than the Alabama governor’s race.”
During that same testimony, Rove admitted that he “may have had” a conversation with Pryor about the Siegelman case in 2002, but only after it had become public knowledge.
Asked about Rove’s latest denials by the Associated Press, Siegelman, who is currently out of prison on bond while seeking a new trial, acknowledged that he has no direct knowledge of whether Rove was involved in his case.
“But we do have the testimony of Jill Simpson,” Siegelman noted, referring to the former Republican lawyer’s claim that Alabama Republican operative Bill Canary had told her that “Karl” was taking a personal interest in the Siegelman case and that “Rove had spoken with the Department of Justice” about “pursuing” Siegelman.
Siegelman also told CBS8 News in Montgomery, Alabama, “I would ask Karl Rove, for once, to put himself under oath and to deny the allegations. … His fingerprints are all over my case.”
The diagram below first appeared in Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane’s 2007 article at Raw Story on the Siegelman prosecution.