Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Senate Judiciary Committee Calls Out Gonzales

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales thought his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee went well, a quick reading of a letter from Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Arlen Specter will disabuse him of that notion.  The letter requests -- perhaps even demands -- a response within a week that clarifies the many instances in which the Attorney General professed ignorance or a lack of recall about the process leading to the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys in 2006.  The letter (here) puts things quite bluntly:

You spent weeks preparing for the April 19th hearing.  Yet during your testimony, in response to questions from Senators on both sides of the aisle, you often responded that you could not recall.  By some counts you failed to answer more than 100 questions, by other counts more than 70, but the most conservative count had you failing to provide answers well over 60 times.  As a result, the Committee’s efforts to learn the truth of why and how these dismissals took place, and the role you and other Department and White House officials had in them, has been hampered.

The questions asked by Senators should not have been a surprise.  You were alerted in letters to you well in advance of last Thursday’s hearing.  By letter sent April 4, you were asked to include in your written testimony a “full and complete account of the development of the plan to replace Untied States Attorneys, and all the specifics of your role in connection with that matter.”  That account was not included in your written testimony nor in your answers to questions at the hearing.  You were also alerted in advance of the hearing, by a letter sent on April 13, that you would be asked about information derived from the staff interviews of your senior aides.  You were, nevertheless, unprepared to answer those questions.   

While the Attorney General's role in the firings had slid to the third page of the major newspapers (see earlier post here), I suspect it may move back to the front page soon. (ph)

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