Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gonzales on U.S. Attorney Firings: "I Don't Recall Being Involved in Deliberations"

After Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, testified that the AG was involved in the decision to terminate eight U.S. Attorneys, Gonzales responded that "[f]rom time to time, Kyle would tell me things that would tell me that this effort was ongoing. I don't recall being involved in deliberations involving the question of whether or not a U.S. attorney should or should not be asked to resign. I didn't focus on specific concerns about individuals."  He did acknowledge that "I signed off on the recommendations and signed off on the implementation plan, and that's the extent of my involvement."  So we have to determine whether making the ultimate decision means one is "involved" but not really "involved" because you don't participate in the deliberations leading up to the decision you made.  It almost sounds like a lack of knowledge defense, or worse, the rubber-stamp excuse for a decision (along with the tired aphorism "The buck stops here" of course).

The investigation of the firings continued on Capitol Hill, even as Congress heads off for its Spring recess, with investigators from the House and Senate Judiciary Committee's interviewing Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and another key player in the decision-making process.  Unlike Sampson, Elston did not have to appear at a public Committee hearing, which may signal that Congress will reach an accommodation with the White House to have Harriet Miers and Karl Rove provide information about their roles in the decision to fire the U.S. Attorneys.  With Gonzales not scheduled to testify before Congress until April 17, the controversy will continue its slow burn. An AP story (here) discusses the latest developments. (ph)

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