Alberto Gonzales Testimony, Part III
AG Gonzales testimony continues. I beg you to think before you comment. The threads are moving quickly this morning, and having to switch fast and furious cuts into liveblogging time. Please keep comments on topic and try to refrain from extraneous commentary where possible to not clog the server. Thanks.
SEN. BROWNBACK QUESTIONS Cont'd: AG — if you look at some of the documents, you can see that the Deputy AG agonized over Bogden. At the end of the day, we felt that it was the right decision. I regret that we didn't have a face to face meeting with him to confer about this. (CHS notes: And now we are talking about interal personnel policies and styles, which, last I checked, are the responsibility of the AG.) Brownback asks about Charlton of AZ, and asks AG to be concise. AG says that Charlton had issues with a particular death penalty case. AG says he made a decision about a particular case on May 15th about a particular case, and asked him to reconsider — AG was miffed that he was asked to reconsider. Since Dec. 7, he has also learned that there was a question about implementing a policy on targets that was different from other areas of the country — to do something unilaterally like that is questionable, but AG learned about this after the fact. Ryan? AG says he was not surprised to see him on the list — poor management.
Chiara? I don't recall why we made the decision on her in December. I have since learned about poor judgment and management questions, we had to send someone out to mediate a dispute. Cummins? He was on a different track — was asked to resign on June 14th. Was asked to resign because there was another well-qualified individual that the WH wanted to place there because he was well-qualified (read: Karl Rove's political crony pal.) Question of seeing if there might be a vacancy coming up and making certain that we had a well-qualified candidate for the job. McKay — recall that it was a question of judgment. I have since learned that the way he pursued a particular project and that there was friction with the Deputy Attorney General, indiciation of poor judgment because he sent a letter about this project and had people sign on without knowing that it would cause friction. Questions about resources — made the DoJ look bad to people outside the department. Brownback says he's glad to hear the factual basis.
SEN. LEAHY CLARIFICATION: On Cummings, you testified that you overlooked what had happened? Did you ever send a follow-up to that testimony? AG says he doesn't recall sending a correction or follow-up. Leahy says you know we leave the record open for you to correct. AG doesn't recall doing so.
SEN. KOHL QUESTIONS: Questions of politicization of prosecutions in WI. Prosecutions routed through Rove's office to Sampson. Was Biskupic ever on the list of USAs to be dismissed? I was never aware that he was on the list, but I am aware that he may have been on aproblem list — Biskupic has said and issued a press release that he was not aware of being on a list. Kohl says if he was on the list, why was he taken off the list? AG says "This was a process that I did not have transparency into this." Kohl says could you get back to me as to why he was on the list and then taken off? AG says with all due respect, ask Sampson. I'll see if there is something I can do, but he doesn't want to compromise this investigation on this. (CHS notes: Essentially, you'll have to ask Sampson and Rove — you know, Rove who is refusing to testify under oath at this point. Helpful.) I'm sure we can agree that the AG office is more important than the person that sits in it — what is the rationale for you staying in the job, with the low morale at the DoJ and questions of the taint of politicization? AG responds that six weeks prior to the election, they took plea from former Rep. Ney — looking at the best thing for the case, not politics. Politicization of the department is just not true — when you raise questions, you are attacking the career prosecutors, and that's not right. (CHS: variation on the "if you question the President, you are unpatriotic" theme.) AG says that he looks back on his tenure at the department with pride — we have done great things, and the department in general has not been mismanaged. The work of the department continues. Cases are still being invstigated, are still being prosecuted. I have instructed all the USAs that no cases should be sped up or slowed down because of the actions. Kohl says that he appreciates that, but that 2/3rds of the American public believes that politics played a role and have lost confidence in your leadership fo the DoJ. Kohl getting at the "putting the Department before yourself" question. AG says that he believes that he can continue to be effective, and the moment that he believes he can't continue, he will resign. AG says the notion that something improper happened here is simply not supported by the documents (CHS notes: that we have decided to give you to look at, but of course there are a whole lot more out there that no one as yet has.)
SEN. HATCH QUESTIONS: Do you make decisions at the DoJ based upon the polls? No, I don't. (CHS notes: Smarmy Orrin has shown up this morning. Quite the weaselly tone in his voice this morning.) Hatch says that lots of good things are done by the DoJ. Your actions back up your words – thanks so much for being such a cooperative fella. "I'm afraid that some do not want to go where the evidence tells us to go." It is one thing to conduct legitimate oversight of matters of substantial concern…Hatch going into the "criminalization of politics" theme. Were any of these attorneys asked to resign in rataliation for political reasons? I don't think so. Hatch says, so the answer is no. (CHS notes: We continue with Hatch's usual leading the witness method of walking the AG through the things that Hatch wants him to say.) AG says he really enjoys going to visit the USA offices and talk with the staff. Hatch moves through the "my busy job" meme. (CHS notes: I swear, if we start down the "my hard job makes me forget and lie" road, I'm going to lose it. This "pass the buck and take no responsibility for anything I ever do" malarky has got to stop.)
Ag says that he is accountable to the American people, and there should be accountability. The USAs should ahve independence on moving their individual cases forward. But that there should be accountability of them to the President with regard to the policies and priorities of the President. There are going to be local eneds and priorities, as well as national ones. USAs, as members of the President's team, they are subordinate to the President's priorities. Hatch says that the AG's description on firing rationales is "perfectly reasonable" that his involvement was limited. AG says that Sampson was coordinating, and that he (AG) interjected himself in the process only from time to time. (CHS: Interesting, Hatch appears to be now warming up the bus for Sampson, his prior staffer. They are worried about him, aren't they?)
SEN. FEINSTEIN QUESTIONS: Syas she has 3 questions to ask him. Whose idea was it to change the law in an amendment from your staff between Moschella and Tollman, to add in conference, an amendment to replace USAs without Senate confirmation? AG says he doesn't recall specifically the genesis of this. Looks like there was discussion about this going back to 2004. AG says that he approved of the amendment because he doesn't like the Judiciary approving who was on his staff. Feinstein says "so you approved of the way this was done?" AG says he's not saying that, he liked the back-door appointment ability though. Feinstein refers to Gonzales written statement and says "I did not make decisions about who should or should not…" — seems to me that there is a big question about whether you are "the decider." Gonzales says that he did not make decisions to his knowledge about who should or should not be on the lists. After the work had been completed, he made the final decision to accept the list given to him by his staff. Battle made calls to USAs — Gonzales says that he made a call to Sen. Kyl, and then cuts himself off with a wince.
Those evaluations would simply be one evaluation of performance in office. Mr. Mercer who was in charge of the performance review process — the EARS reports — AG says that he doesn't recall, there is a back and forth, turns out they are talking about Battle and not Mercer. Leahy steps in and says that he sent a letter to the AG prior to testimony notifying him that this would be an issue with regard to the transcript — AG doesn't seem aware that he was notified, but thanks Leahy. Says that you can have a particular prosecutor who is doing well individually, but not well as a part of the team.
Feinstein says that Lam was ranked as one of the top 10 prosecutors in the country — goes through substantial list of qualification and kudos for Lam from state and federal agencies and within the DoJ. Prosecutions for alien smuggling in the Southern district (letter from William Moschella to Feinstein) are rising sharply — compares favorably to the number of prosecutions brought in 2005. Finally, no one in the DoJ communicated to Carol Lam that there was a problem with her handling of immigration cases — if this is the reason for her firing, shouldn't someone at the DoJ have had the decency to contact her and discuss these problems? AG says that she was aware of these concerns because she had contact with members of Congress about this. (CHS notes: Rep. Issa, for one.) It was appropriate that we would ask for changes on gun and immigration prosecutions. Feinstein says, you mentioned House members — bring your attention to e-mail that Lam met with Issa and Sesenbrenner — youraide says that the meeting was cordial and constructive and that Lam handled it well. AG says there were questions about the gun and immigration performance issues and that's the reason why. A bit of stammering.
10 minute recess.
Fresh thread will start here.