The White House has acknowledged a minor role for Bush in the affair. Last year, it confirmed that Bush had one conversation with then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, prior to the now-infamous purge, about complaints from senators that their home-state U.S. attorneys were not aggressively pursuing perceived voter fraud cases.
In addition, the Albequerque (N.M.) Journal reported in April 2007 that sometime after the 2006 midterm elections, Bush had a phone conversation with Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., about then-New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias. Iglesias was one of the nine prosecutors fired in the scandal. The White House last Friday declined to confirm the story.
During oral arguments in June, Judge Bates made it clear he did not understand the adminisration's position on Bush's involvement in the scandal.
"Let me explore that just a little bit," Judge Bates asked administration lawyer Nichols during oral arguments in June. "[W]hat you're saying is that some of the documents" subpoenaed by Congress "may well be documents that involved advice to the President or even presidential decisions."
"They may well. They may well," Nichols replied.
"But some may not," the judge said.
"That is correct," replied Nichols.
Bates tried to sum up the White House's stance: "If you divide out. . . the issues, into the removal [of the U.S. attorneys] versus who was to be appointed to replace people, versus handling the whole matter, the sort of after-the-removal problems with Congress, then those may have different degrees of presidential involvement."
"I think that's fair, Your Honor," Nichols replied.
Fair, perhaps, but none too clear: in his ruling, Bates noted there was "some ambiguity" in the White House's position.
The White House declined to comment on the president's role in the scandal. "We don't have anything new to add to this exhaustively covered issue at this time," wrote spokesman Scott Stanzel in an email to ABC News.