WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On the day presidential senior adviser Karl Rove administered a tongue-lashing to a Republican congressman, disturbing news about his former executive assistant was spread on Capitol Hill. GOP House members learned that Susan Ralston is requesting immunity to testify before Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's investigating committee.
She was an assistant to Jack Abramoff, Washington super-lobbyist and Republican fund-raiser, in 2001 when he recommended her for the top job with Rove as he entered the White House. As Rove's gatekeeper, Susan Bonzon Ralston became special assistant to the president and the highest-ranking Filipino-American in the administration. For Waxman, she is a link between the disgraced, imprisoned Abramoff and Rove, a principal political target of the Democratic-controlled Congress.
As House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, Waxman is tirelessly making life miserable for a confused administration during George W. Bush's last two years as president. Bringing down Rove ranks high on Grand Inquisitor Waxman's agenda. But Ralston appears to be seeking immunity for self-protection rather than nailing her former boss, and she could be a blank fired by the fierce political marksman from Westside Los Angeles.
Rove, the hard-edged architect of two victorious presidential campaigns, was in the Democratic crosshairs long before Republicans lost control of Congress. Democrats were bitterly disappointed when he was not indicted in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case (when Ralston was among the grand jury witnesses). They have targeted Rove in investigating the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, and the Waxman committee sought testimony from Ralston about Rove's e-mails. She was deposed behind closed doors last month prior to her request for immunity.
Ralston last week told one Republican on the committee that her lawyers wanted her to seek immunity, and another GOP committee member told me she is doing so. According to her friends, she has nothing to say that would cause problems for Rove. Her request for immunity, they explained, resulted from caution by her attorneys. It was forwarded to the Justice Department, whose recommendation may or may not be followed by Congress. Ralston did not return my telephone call.