Almost every Wednesday afternoon, advisers to President Bush gather to strategize about putting his stamp on the federal courts and the United States attorneys’ offices.
The group meets in the Roosevelt Room and includes aides to the White House counsel, the chief of staff, the attorney general and Karl Rove, who also sometimes attends himself. Each of them signs off on every nomination.
Mr. Rove, a top adviser to the president, takes charge of the politics. As caretaker to the administration’s conservative allies, Mr. Rove relays their concerns, according to several participants in the Wednesday meetings. And especially for appointments of United States attorneys, he manages the horse trading.
“What Karl would say is, ‘Look, if this senator who has been working with the president on the following things really wants this person and we think they are acceptable, why don’t we give the senator what he wants?’ ” said one former administration official. “ ‘You know, we stiffed him on that bill back there.’ ”
Mr. Rove’s role has put him in the center of a Senate inquiry into the dismissal of eight United States attorneys. Democrats and a few Republicans have raised questions about whether the prosecutors were being replaced to impede or jump-start investigations for partisan goals.
Political advisers have had a hand in picking judges and prosecutors for decades, but Mr. Rove exercises unusually broad influence over political, policy and personnel decisions because of his closeness to the president, tenure in the administration and longstanding interest in turning the judiciary to the right.