As a reminder, the more comments there are in the thread, the faster I have to start a new one and that interrupts the flow of the liveblogging.  Please think before you hit the comment button whether or not your one-liner is necessary.  The servers are humming along okay this morning, and I would love to keep it that way.  Thanks.  — CHS


SEN. SCHUMER QUESTIONS:  Safe to say that Schumer is a bit skeptical.  Go back to the discussion with Feinstein regarding Lam.  You said she was acutely aware — Sampson said that he does not think that anyone gave her notice of problems with her or the DoJ.  Sampson says no notice, and you told Feinstein that she was acutely aware.  AG says he won't characterize Sampson's testimony.  In looking at the documents, he believes that there was communication with Lam — and that there was a lot of discussion with members of Congress.  Schumer says that Lam was not aware of the DoJs view on her immigration prosecution record.  This is what we have been through all morning — the people that we have interviewed are saying conflicting information from your testimony.  AG says he recalls sitting in a meeting with Lam and saying those numbers needed to change, and that this information needed to be communicated.  AG didn't speak to her directly — but thinks that someone should have.  Doesn't testify that she was told — or that he has any knowledge that she was told — by anyone in particular about any problem in particular.  AG says that he didn't say that Lam was told that if her numbers didn't change, she'd need to resign.  If you look at the letters and information, then there is no question that she knew there was a problem.  Schumer says "Is it a general policy of the DoJ that when you have a problem with a USA, that you let Congress tell them about it?"  AG says that they should have done a better job.  Schumer says that this is beyond a question of doing a better job, you have had a month to prepare and we'd like answers.

Gets back into the Pryor issue — AG lied to me and to the Senate about Cummings.  Schumer says he spoke to Pryor and that he stands by those words.  Goes on to the Patriot Act evasion of Congressional oversight plan.  Goes through the discussion of running out the clock on Senator Pryor — using a number of tactics to delay so that Griffen could stay in until the end of the President's term.  Sampson says he was in the room when AG spoke with Pryor and said that he wanted to take Griffen through confirmation process.  Did Sampson put out this memo completely on his own that contradicts what you just said was your policy — or was he articulating what you really thought was a good idea — because either way, this doesn't look good.  AG says that Sampson testified that Ag didn't like the plan.  Schumer says who is running the department if Sampson is putting out an e-mail about a plan that you didn't like — and your Cheif of Staff puts out a detailed, step-by-step process, of how to implement this plan?  AG is peeved that his running of the department is being questioned.  Sampson said it was a bad idea in Feb. or March, but in December he's going full bore ahead with the plan.  Schumer affirms that Sampson's testimony was that in December the AG did not reject the plan.  It raises substantial questions that this was done within 4 days of the AG talkng with Pryor.

LEAHY FOLLOW-UP:  When you talk about sending up nominations for vacancies, you sent up 2 nominations for 21 vacancies — that's one out of ten.  AG takes issue with Schumer characterization.

SEN. GRAHAM QUESTIONS:  Graham sounds like he has a cold today.  Plan you were talking about with Schumer was what?  AG says as he understood it, Sampson should have doen a review of all USAs and make determinations thereon.  How do you reconcile the conversations with Sen. Pryor and the Sampson e-mail/memo?  AG says talked in good faith to Pryor.  Reason he was put into the slot was because the WH wanted Griffen in it?  No problems with Cummings, just wanted Griffen?  Yes, that's a fair characterization.  Goes through the question on the Patriot Act provision question — talking about the Sampson testimony.  AG says that he knows that he did not like the Patriot Act provision/plan to put USAs in without Senate approval.  Graham says "and the White House had a different view?"  Where did this idea come from?  AG says he can't say where it came from, but he didn't support it.  (CHS:  Again, howdy Karl.  Maybe Graham should ask Hatch about that.  Ahem.)  Graham says that Pryor is a reasonable man, and that Gonzales needs to straighten this out.  Graham has problems in how convoluted this whole thing has been, and how badly this has been handled by the AG. 

Is it fair to say that you based yoru decisions trusting in the judgment of your senior staff?  Yes.  Graham says it bothers him that you didn't contact anyof the people who were fired to find out their side of the story.  Was this really performance based or did these people just run afoul of personalities of the people in the office and that you just came up with a rationale to fire them?  AG starts to go into the documentation and Graham cuts him off saying that they are mostly just thin justifications and that these folks ran afoul of personality conflicts with folks at the DoJ and the White House and you just came up with a reason to fire them.   What kind of damage needs to be repaired on your part?  AG says he needs to continue to have dialogue with Congress on this.  AG says he didn't say no to the document requests or to his staffers testifying or try to slow this down — wants to get to the truth.

SEN. DURBIN QUESTIONS:  When you were WH counsel, did you sit in on meetings on judicial and USA selections with Rove?  Rove would infrequently but occasionally be present.  Durbin asks about the Fitzgerald appointment in Chicago.  It's been reported that Rove had problems with Fitzgerald being appointed because of potential political considerations in Illinois.  AG not aware of this.  Going into the eval of Fitzgerald's performance done early in Gonzales' tenure — and Fitz was given a recommendation that he had "no distinguished himself, either positively or negatively" by Sampson.  AG says that he doesn't recall ever seeing these evaluations.  AG says he had recused himself from evaluating Fitz due to conflict of interest, but thinks personally that Fitzgerald is an outstanding prosecutor.  Doesn't recall Sampson speaking to him abot removing Fitzgerald — doesn't know anything about any Sampson recommendation to Miers.  Durbin gets into how not believeable that is to him that Gonzales would not recall a conversation about this, if he and Sampson had that conversation, given the high profile of Fitz.  Did you ever have a conversation after the appointment of Fitzgerald to be special prosecutor in the investigation of the Valerie Plame matter with either the President or Karl Rove about the removal of Fitzgerald?  [long pause] Sir, I believe the answer to that is no.  Did you ever have a conversation with Rove about the removal of Iglesias?  I recall a discussion with Mr. Rove about voter fraud cases, including in New Mexico, where Iglesias was USA.  Rove had complaints about voter fraud prosecutions or lack of prosecutions, and basically about voter fraud cases including in New Mexico.  I believe that I communicated this information to Mr. Sampson, but I don't recall what happened after that.  It was my decision to fire Iglesias.  Sen. Dominici and Rep., Wilson ought to have their opportunity to present their side — but a member of Congress contacting a USA is a very, very serious issue, but we didn't know about these calls.  Iglesias intentionally violated a policy meant to protect him — and as I weigh these facts, I think Iglesias should not be a USA.  Doesn't recall any conversations with Rove about Lam.  Durbin now asking about article by Patrick Collins as an AUSA — belives that Gonzales' continued service causes a problem in prosecution of public corruption cases.  "USAs must never serve only to please the President."  AG says he agrees with that.  Durbin brings up Sampson's "loyal Bushies" comments, among others.  AG says that this is not about what is best for Alberto Gonzales, it is about what is best for the DoJ.  I'm going ot work as hard as I can to re-establish trust with this committee and the public. 

There is then a great conversation about the responsibility for perception problems.  I hope there is a clip of this up somewhere soon.  Very well done.

Break until 2:00 2:30 pm ET.  (Note the time change to 2:30 pm ET.)

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com