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Karl Rove's Connection to the Cheney Shooting

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Today's New York Times piece about the "palpable" tension between Bush's and Cheney's staffs -- exacerbated but not created by the shooting story fallout -- contains a glaring omission: not a single word about Karl Rove. Yet the handling of the shooting incident has been a Turd Blossom special since the beginning.

According to the White House, Rove was one of the first people in the administration informed about it. After being notified by Andy Card that there had been a hunting accident involving Cheney, Rove picked up the phone and called ranch owner Katharine Armstrong.

He didn't have to call 411 to get the number. Turns out that Rove and Armstrong go way back. As reported in the New Yorker [via Josh Marshall], Katharine Armstrong's dad, beef industry titan Tobin Armstrong, helped finance Rove's first business, an Austin-based direct mail firm called Karl Rove + Company. The 2003 article also mentions a hunting trip to the Armstrong Ranch Rove and Bill Frist had planned (though later canceled for appearance's sake after Frist supplanted Trent Lott in a Rove-engineered coup). So Rove was definitely not unfamiliar with the "scene of the crime."

President Bush is also pals with Armstrong. An August 2005, story in the New York Times has the president describing her as a "friend from South Texas" who was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Bush at the Crawford ranch [via Will Bunch].

But back to the Boy Genius, who has another, even more interesting, connection to Katherine Armstrong and the Cheney shooting: his alleged long-running affair with her business partner, Karen Johnson.

Armstrong and Johnson are lobbyists who have managed to score some lucrative assignments lobbying the Bush administration, including a successful effort at getting the Dept. of Agricultural to make a deal with their client Prionic, a drug company that makes tests for mad cow disease.

Johnson and Rove have long been the subject of gossip and raised-eyebrows deep in the heart of Texas. "For years," a Lone Star State source told me, "it's been an article of faith in Austin that Karen and Karl are an item, and that their affair helped Karen land some plum appointments and clients."

So take the claims that the Bush and Cheney camps are at odds over the shooting with a grain of salt. Karl Rove's fingerprints are all over this story. And perhaps a bit of his DNA as well.

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