Friday, March 30, 2007

What Sampson Remembered

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys and dodged any potential perjury trap (see earlier post here) by not recalling too much detail.  As recounted in a Washington Post story (here), Sampson responded to a number of questions by saying that he "did not remember" or "did not remember specifically."  It would be virtually impossible to charge someone with perjury for not responding to a question by claiming a lack of memory, unless there was clear evidence that the person did recall, which is unlikely.  That said, a lack of memory statement does lock the person into that position, because it is unlikely their memory will improve if incriminating evidence emerges later. 

Sampson's lack of memory -- an affliction that seems to trouble others in the Administration -- did not prevent him from recalling the participation of his former boss in the decision to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys.  Sampson stated that AG Gonzales' statement about his lack of involvement in the decision was not "accurate," which will boost the pressure on the Attorney General.  Sampson also denied that the decision to fire the federal prosecutors was made by inexperienced Department of Justice attorneys, stating that "[t]he decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the President" -- Gonzales and Harriet Miers.  Of course, neither of them would rate as experienced prosecutors with much law enforcement background, but they were in the position of authority to make the final decision.  Sampson's testimony may trigger the kind of hair-splitting we haven't seen since the late 1990s as each side analyzes how much one can be "involved" without really being "involved" -- remember hearing that "it depends on what is means"?  An AP story (here) discusses Sampson's testimony. (ph)

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