The Tempest

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Lies – Lies – Lies – Get Out

Posted by Daniel on Friday, April 20, 2007

gonzales_bush_illegal.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales confronted a fresh Republican call for his resignation Thursday as he struggled to survive a withering, bipartisan Senate attack on his credibility in the case of eight fired prosecutors.

“The best way to put this behind us is your resignation,” Sen. Tom Coburn bluntly told Gonzales — one GOP conservative to another — at a daylong Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Gonzales disagreed and told the Oklahoma senator he didn’t know that his departure would put the controversy to rest. “I am committed to working with you in trying to restore the faith and confidence you need to work with me,” he said.

The exchange punctuated a long day in the witness chair for the attorney general, who doggedly advanced a careful, lawyerly defense of the dismissals of the federal prosecutors. He readily admitted mistakes, yet told lawmakers he had “never sought to deceive them,” and added he would make the same firings decision again.

“At the end of the day I know I did not do anything improper,” he said.

But another Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, delivered a virtual invitation for him to step down.

He said the committee would continue its investigation and urged Gonzales to provide additional information. “If you decide to stay on it’s up to the president,” he said.

Gonzales sat alone at the witness table in a crowded room for the widely anticipated hearing. There was no doubt about the stakes for a member of President Bush’s inner circle, and support from fellow Republicans was critical to his attempt to hold his job.

“The moment I believe I can no longer be effective I will resign as attorney general,” Gonzales said after making it clear he did not believe it had come to that.

The hearing was drawing to a close on Capitol Hill when Bush spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters at the White House, “The attorney general has the confidence of the president. … The attorney general acted to replace the U.S. attorneys and there was nothing improper.”

Struggling to save his credibility and perhaps his job, Gonzales testified at least 45 times that he could not recall events he was asked about.

After a long morning in the witness chair, Gonzales returned after lunch to face a fresh challenge to his credibility. “Why is your story changing?” asked Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, noting that the attorney general was now accepting responsibility for the firings after initially saying he had played only a minor role.

In response, Gonzales replied that his earlier answers had been “overbroad” and the result of inadequate preparation.

The process that led to the firings “should have been more rigorous,” he added, although he repeatedly defended the decisions themselves.

Gonzales sat alone at the witness table in a crowded hearing room for the widely anticipated hearing. There was no doubt about the stakes involved for a member of President Bush’s inner circle, under pressure to resign since the dismissals of the prosecutors.

Gonzales insisted Thursday he played only a small role in the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. Skeptical senators reacted with disbelief.

“We have to evaluate whether you are really being forthright,” Specter bluntly informed the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Specter said Gonzales’ description was “significantly if not totally at variance with the facts.”

“I don’t want to quarrel with you,” Gonzales replied after Specter asked again whether his was a fair, honest characterization.

Gonzales told the committee there was no impropriety in last winter’s firings and the decision was “justified and should stand.”

Gonzales conceded that “reasonable people might disagree” with the decision. He said the process by which the U.S. attorneys were dismissed was “nowhere near as rigorous or structured as it should have been.”

Offering an apology to the eight and their families, he also said he had “never sought to mislead or deceive the Congress or the American people” on that or any other matter.

Majority Democrats expressed skepticism at the attorney general’s testimony.

“Since you apparently knew very little about the performance about the replaced United States attorneys, how can you testify that the judgment ought to stand?” asked Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Gonzales whether he had reviewed the evaluation records of the dismissed prosecutors, who Justice Department officials initially said had been fired for inadequate performance. He said he had not.

The attorney general began his turn as a witness after a tongue-lashing from Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee’s chairman.

“Today the Department of Justice is experiencing a crisis of leadership perhaps unrivaled during its 137-year history,” said the Vermont Democrat. “There’s a growing scandal swirling around the dismissal” of prosecutors, he added.

Specter offered no more comfort in his opening remarks.

He said the purpose of the hearing was to determine whether the committee believes that Gonzales should remain in office. “As I see it, you come to this hearing with a very heavy burden of proof,” Specter said as Gonzales listened intently, lips pursed, a few feet away.

 

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One Response to “Lies – Lies – Lies – Get Out”

  1. […] Lies-Lies-Lies-Get Out […]

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