Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is testifying today before the House Judiciary Committee. The committee website is streaming video and C-Span3 is broadcasting it as well. During liveblogging, please stay on topic in the comments, and please try to hold yourself back from extraneous comments where possible to be kind to our servers. Thanks!
REP. CONYERS QUESTIONS: Since the date of the firings on Dec 7, 2006, have you discussed this matter with President Bush? AG says that President has given him encouragement, but not with regard to substance. You have already indicated that you spoke with Rove about the voter fraud matter in 2006 — Fall of 2006 — do you have information on whether Rove or any other WH staff member helped to get Iglesias on the firing list either through Ms. Goodling or anyone else who might have been a WH liason? AG says he doesn't recall anything in the documents about that. (CHS notes: What about from conversations or something outside the documents?) AG says that Conyers has more "bread crumbs" than he does, because the committee has spoken directly with witnesses. Conyers says, but you were the one who had the conversation with Karl Rove, not me. AG says he doesn't recall Rove saying that Iglesias needed to be terminated, but that Rove was just expressing his dissatisfaction with Iglesias.
REP. FORBES QUESTIONS: Says that hundreds of thousands of press releases have gone out on this. (CHS notes: Golly, that's a lot! Jeepers. Totally credible number that he didn't just pull out of thin air, I bet.) We are now talking about what is or is not appropriate in terms of contact between members of Congress and the DoJ. Talking about the rise in gangs now — and whether memebrs of Congress could talk about that with the DoJ if they felt that the direction that the DoJ was going was not appropriate. (CHS notes: Ahhh, we get to the attempt to insulate Domenici and Wilson from criticism tack.) Now talking about anti-terrorism and espionage cases in the same context. How are these investigations impacting your office's ability to investigate these other more serious matters than perverting the DoJ? (CHS notes: okay, I'm paraphrasing there.) AG says that he has to multi-task, because that's his job to work on behalf of the American people, and gosh thanks for asking.
REP. BERMAN QUESTIONS: Berman knows McKay from his prior appointment by Bush I. Thinks that the reasons given for asking McKay to resign are incredibly flimsy. Believes that the DoJ comments do a discredit to the AG unless they are rebutted by you — because he believes that McKay was an excellent public servant.
REP. SANCHEZ QUESTIONS: Sanchez asks about Mercer's comments that the USA position is a vehicle for launching party loyalists into positions to pad their resume and as a potential springboard for a federal judgeship. AG says that the office doesn't depend on the USA and that all they need to do is fill the slot with someone who has good qualifications, but the USA doesn't really run the prosecutions and thus, brushes off how important it is to have someone with integrity about the judicial process and apolitical decisionmaking and ethics. (CHS: Okay, I am now absolutely furious. And I am certain that LHP is blowing a gasket somewhere. Because the USA sets a distinct tone and if you appoint someone solely because they are a political hack with WH political shop connections, that certainly sets a tone, doesn't it?)
REP. PENCE QUESTIONS: "Part of the mission of the Justice Department" to preserve the integrity of public institutions. Calling AG's attention to legislation he sponsored on free flow of information act — "federal media shield" — believes that Founders intended that a free and independent press is the chief safeguard to public integrity. The only check on government power in real time is a free press. The rights of the press have eroded, and he's not happy with that. Wants assurance from AG and staff that the DoJ would work with them to pass this legislation. AG says no position on the legislation, and he's not convinced of the need for this — DoJ has only issued 19 subpoenas for confidential source information since 1991, and the department has a rigorous internal process, but I'm happy to talk with you about this.
REP. WEXLER QUESTIONS: Iglesias was placed on the firing list on election day in 2006. Wexler running through all the hierarchy of folks at the DoJ, none of whom including the AG himself, the President and the Veep — none of these people put Iglesias on the list, so who did? AG says what is more important is that Iglesias was recommended to him and that he accepted that recommendation. Wexler says, no, who put him on the list? AG doesn't know. Why was he placed on the list? AG says that the senior senator from NM had lost confidence in him. Wexler says that Moschella told the committee that Iglesias was onthe list because he was an absentee landlord — AG says he didn't make the decision…Wexler interjects, yes, you have been very clear about the factthat you didn't make any decisions on this. There is some back and forth on respecting the integrity of the investigation, and not asking questions — and Wexler is not buying that as an excuse. You know who put them on the list but you won't tell us.
REP. FEENEY QUESTIONS: You've admitted botched PR and botched supervision — aren't the questions that Wexler was asking the very questions that the OIP is looking into? Yes. Now talking about counterintelligence questions and counterterror operations. AG says he can't break it down in terms of assets or resources, but it is the number 1 priority. And now they are having a Justice Rehnquist book club discussion. And on to the NSL questions and privacy concerns.
REP. COHEN QUESTIONS: You don't know who put Iglesias on the list, but you said that the President or Veep didn't — how do you know that? AG says they just would not have done that. You don't know for a fact that they weren't involved in this process either through Miers or Rove, right? AG says the WH has said publicly that they weren't involved in specific names on this. Doesn't know if this was Miers or Rove's idea on the getting rid of all USAs after second term — doesn't have a recollection of that, but in lookng at the documents, there was e-mail traffic just before Gonzales became AG. Did you ask why Cummins was fired? He was asked to leave in June — a change was desired by the WH, because a well-qualified individual (Griffen) was wanted in that spot by the WH. Cohen asks don't you think that a public official who is out there in the public eye, and their livelihood depends on public reputation — don't you think that thereshould be a compelling reason to remove these people rather than just some group of people who decide based on no real defined criteria that they should go. AG says "we don't owe them the job, but we could do better."
REP. RIC KELLER QUESTIONS: What are your top two priorities over the next few months? (1) Making sure that America is safe. (2) Gangs and drugs and violent crime. (3) Commitment to make sure kids are safe, from sex offenders and otherwise. Keller now talking about the public pain that the AG has suffered — and golly, how wonderful he is because of his passion to make a difference. (CHS says: Awwww…group hug.) Keller says that this whole "scandal" can be summarized by Carol Lam — that's what he tells the folks in his town meetings — Carol seems nice, but according to Keller she was an incompetent, gun-allowing idgit, and how dare people think that her prosecution of Duke Cunningham and many other GOP-attached corruption cases all of which happened to coincidentally be coming to a head at the time of her firing might be…erm…not so much of a coincidence. (CHS notes: Yep, paraphrasing again.) Did you ask Lam to resign because she was prosecuting public corruption cases? No. How about the WH — President, Miers, Rove, Bolten? AG says they didn't say anything to me about that and I'm not aware of it. (CHS notes: Well, that was noncommittal.)
REP. JOHNSON QUESTIONS: Goes through AG's credentials and the credentials of his upper-level staff. And then says instead you delegated an extraordinary amount of power to two very inexperienced aides, neither of whom had much trial experience at all and no law enforcement background whatsoever. You gave these two the power to hire and fire major employees who lead very important criminal cases. You did not inform your DAG or your AAG. What were you thinking? AG says that there is a lot to talk about there, and then begins to talk circles around answering the question. It's filibuster time. AG then says that "my understanding is that they were told." (CHS notes: Jeebus, does this man do ANY of his job himself?) Gets into Goodling making hiring and firing decisions pertaining to career and non-career hiring — AG ducks the question because of a current ongoing investigation referral. Did Sampson have the same power under your memorandum? Yes. Did he in fact play a part in making personnel decisions about DoJ career and non-career personnel? [Hem and haw] yes. They both played a part in putting together the list of fired USAs. Anyone else who assisted them? AG says "if you look at the e-mail traffic…" and refers back to "looking at the documents." Bill Mercer, that Comey was consulted about his views…AG getting very agitated about this line of questioning. Going to put the question on any others involved in writing to the AG.
Fresh liveblog thread here.