Friday, August 17, 2007
Another day, another letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, this time to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. Leahy is asking for an investigation of a variety of statements made by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that seem to be contradicted by testimony from others, or even his own statements. It seems that the AG can't come up to Capitol Hill without triggering cries about seemingly inconsistent testimony. In the letter (here), Leahy writes:
I ask that you review the Attorney General’s testimony and compare it with other testimony and evidence to determine whether his testimony was in any instances intentionally false, misleading, or inappropriate. Consistent with your jurisdiction, please do not limit your inquiry to whether or not the Attorney General has committed any criminal violations. Rather, I ask that you look into whether the Attorney General, in the course of his testimony, engaged in any misconduct, engaged in conduct inappropriate for a cabinet officer and the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, or violated any duty – including the duty set out in federal regulations for government officials to avoid any conduct which gives the appearance of a violation of law or of ethical standard, regardless of whether there is an actual violation of law.
Leahy's letter outlines five instances the IG may want to look into, including the now-famous meeting in March 2004 in Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room at which Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to get the Department of Justice to approve the Terrorism Surveillance Program over the objection of Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
FBI Director Robert Mueller produced his notes of that meeting (here), which the House Judiciary Committee released. The notes reflect the report of Comey about the meeting, which Mueller did not attend but arrived at the hospital shortly after Gonzales and Card left. At the meeting with Gonzales and Card, Ashcroft "reviewed for them the the legal concerns relating to the program. The AG also told them that he was barred from obtaining the advice he needed on the program by the strict compartmentalization rules of the W[hite} H[ouse]." [Italics added] It's not clear what those "strict compartmentalization rules" were, but I suspect Gonzales will be making another trip up to Capitol Hill to answer more questions about why the Attorney General could not get the information he felt he needed to render a legal opinion. That letter (and accompanying subpoena perhaps) should be going out soon. (ph)