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Top political strategist to leave Bush administration

Investigation will continue into whether Karl Rove brought political influence to bear in last year's controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys, Senate Democrat says.

Karl Rove, whom President Bush called the architect of his political success but who also has been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy, resigned Monday as Bush's political adviser.

He will leave the White House at the end of August. Before flying together to Texas, where Bush will begin a vacation at his ranch in Crawford, the two men spoke briefly to reporters at the White House. Rove praised Bush's leadership in fighting the war on terror and handling the economy.

"Your integrity, character and decency have remained unchanged and inspiring," Rove said.

Rove, 56, will leave Washington to live in Texas, where he and Bush grew a friendship into a political alliance that brought Bush the governorship and the presidency. Rove gave little reason for his departure other than a desire to spend more time with his wife and his son, who attends college in San Antonio.

While it is unclear who will replace Rove, it is likely -- since Rove has been talking with Bush about leaving for at least a year -- that the White House has a plan in place. Rove's departure, along with that of White House Counsel Dan Bartlett earlier this summer, means Bush will enter the homestretch of his presidency without his two closest White House advisers.

Rove serves nominally as deputy chief of staff, but the modest title belies his wide-ranging influence within the White House, where he has been political strategist, domestic policy guru and emissary to Capitol Hill and Republicans throughout the country. Rove's very omnipresence helped draw scrutiny from congressional Democrats, who are probing his actions on a variety of fronts.

Senate and House Judiciary Committee Democrats are looking into whether Rove brought political influence to bear in last year's controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys. A subpoena from the Senate panel for his testimony was rejected recently after Bush cited executive privilege in refusing to allow Rove to appear.

In a statement Monday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Rove is departing under a cloud and that the investigation would continue.

"Mr. Rove's apparent attempts to manipulate elections and push out prosecutors citing bogus claims of voter fraud shows corruption of federal law enforcement for partisan political purposes, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will continue its investigation into this serious issue," Leahy said.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scrutinizing Rove's actions in several matters, including the use of Republican National Committee e-mail accounts by White House staffers, the disclosure of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak and political presentations made to agency staffers by White House officials. An aide to Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Monday said Rove's departure from the White House would not affect its investigations.

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