• U.S.

A Secretary Testifies

2 minute read
Massimo Calabresi

At the center of the controversy over missing White House e-mails is a woman who used to be one of the most powerful secretaries in the world. Susan Ralston, 39, managed the business of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff before he fell, then moved to the White House, where she oversaw the 60-man operation of political honcho Karl Rove. Ralston stepped down from the Rove job last October after the House reported that she had accepted tickets to sports events from Abramoff, apparently without reimbursing him, in violation of White House policy. By then she had already been talking to investigators about both her bosses for more than a year.

On June 18, Democrat Henry Waxman pulled back the veil on what she’s been saying by releasing a 90-page deposition his staff conducted with her on May 10. The documents show Ralston and her lawyer playing a coy game, offering up unsolicited information on Rove’s use of prewar Iraq intelligence, his conversations with Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame case and political briefings by the White House to agencies–but saying she can only give the committee a full look at everything if it will give her immunity from prosecution, should she become a target of an investigation.

A Waxman staffer says Ralston’s performance in May was “cooperative” and “candid.” So where does loyalty to Rove or Abramoff fit in this game? “They’re just bosses that she had,” says a source familiar with the case. Some Democrats, though, still suspect the cagey Ralston is trying for the ultimate testimonial trifecta: getting immunity, satisfying investigators and protecting Rove.

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