Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.
The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.
There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was crafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week amid a political firestorm surrounding the firings.
The five-step plan involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval and naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.
Claimed little involvement in firings
The documents indicated that the hour-long morning discussion, held in the attorney generalâ€™s conference room, was the only time Gonzales met with top aides who decided which prosecutors to fire and how to do it.
Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said it was not immediately clear whether Gonzales gave his final approval to begin the firings at that meeting. Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.
On March 13, in explaining the firings, Gonzales told reporters he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.
â€œI knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers â€” where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and thatâ€™s what I knew,â€ Gonzales said last week. â€œBut that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. Thatâ€™s basically what I knew as the attorney general.â€
Alberto Gonzales may go down as the most inept toady in history.