(No, not THAT Samson.)
***BREAKING: The Senate GOP has objected to the Judiciary Committee hearing continuing during open business on the Senate floor. It's a procedural maneuver allowed under the rules. The Judiciary Committee will be in recess until further notice.***
***Back up and running again. Well, "confusion in the cloak room" is a new one on me. *g* (H/T Raw Story.)
1:55 pm ET: Hearing back in session. Sampson clarifying whether he spoke to Bush about this issue. Remembered at lunch that he had spoken to Bush sometime in 2005 at a "meet and greet" for Roberts in 2005. Leahy says he appreciates the clarification because he was also there. Kyl asks if Leahy had words with the President — and Leahy reponds that he did, and with the Vice President on occasion. (Laughter in the gallery.) Kyl says they won't go into what words.
SEN. KYL QUESTIONS: Going to ask some questions about USA in AZ, Paul Charlton. Sampson thinks he is a fine man and a great lawyer. Primary reason he was asked to resign? Policy reasons with the department? Concerns related to death penalty and recording of interrogations, department-wide policy. Kyl says that Charlton had a running dispute on death penalty issues and wanting the FBI to record confessions which was cntrary to FBI policy. Did Charlton continue to press his point of view after the AG had made his decision? Sampson said yes, and he thinks that the term "underperformance" has led to confusion. Kyl says there is a difference where there is a policy decision, and where you suggest that it was "underperformance" — wouldn't you agree that this is almost a challenge for any good lawyer to come forward and challenge that characterization? Sampson says yes.
Kyl says it should have been characterized as policy differences, and not as underperformance? Sampson says yes.
To his knowledge there was no one waiting to be appointed for that spot once Charlton was asked to step down? Sampson says no, and to his knowledge no one yet set for that postiion. Any suggestion in AZ that Charlton be removed for any political corruption case pending? Sampson says to his knowledge, no. Lack of involvement? Sampson says no — he was aggregator of input and resources, and he doesn't recall anyone putting those reasons forward with regard to Charlton.
In e-mail (#61) you wrote "Sen. Kyl is fine." Were you aware that I asked McNulty to reconsider that request for resignation? Sampson says that he wasn't aware of that — to his knowledge that Kyl understood that this was the decision. Kyl says that the AG called him 12/7 — Kyl says that he expressed shock and dismay about Charlton being dismissed, and when Kyl met with McNulty at his request, asked McNulty to reconsider and ask Charlton to reconsider. Sampson not aware of that.
#168 and #169: Were you involved? Looking for copies of the document for Sampson to review. Sampson says he didn't prepare this document. Judiciary in the House prepared this, Kyl thinks. Something about Charlton working outside proper channels — Sampson thinks it was prepared by DoJ in advance of testimony, in preparation for testimony with regard to Charlton's firing. Some vague recollection about something dealing with Ashcroft. Kyl thinks this may have been with regard to some questions that Kyl was asking to get more resources for Charlton.
SEN. KENNEDY QUESTIONS: Thanks Sampson for appearing voluntarily. Says you were the aggregator of information, and you said you kept a file in your desk drawer — do you know if this was given in its entirety to the committee? Sampson says it wasn't a good file, and the DoJ has made an effort to turn over anything relevant to the committee, but I don't know because I no longer work at the DoJ. Kennedy says they'll check on that.
DoJ has admitted now that the 2/23 letter was inaccurate — that Rove did play a role in the decision to replace Bud Cummings as the USA in Arkansas. Sampson says that he was not aware of Rove being interested in Griffen being appointed to the position at the time ha drafted the letter. Sampson says that he was aware that the AG determined independently to do that — says AG had several conversations with Sen. Pryor about this before making the decisions. Doesn't remember Rove — circulated the letter widely to make sure it was accurate, and "no one disabused me of that notion."
Kennedy points out that Sampson said in his e-mail that it was "important to Karl," but Sampson says that to the best of his knowledge he doesn't remember that Rove ever talked to him on the phone or in person about this, and doesn't remember being told that by anyone else. Kennedy asks why would you write that in your e-mal then? Sampson says that he thought it was important to Karl based on information from Sen. Taylor's interest.
SEN. GRASSLEY QUESTIONS: Grassley says it isn't against the law for the President to fire US Attorneys. But once those representations are made with regard to why the USAs are fired, those representations — both to the public and to Congress — need to be accurate.
The GOP has now objected to this hearing continuing. Under the rules of the Senate, they have the right to do so. We will stand in recess until the Senate recesses. Once the Senate has adjourned, Sen. Grassley will be the next person to be recognized, Sen. Leahy says. (CHS: This is a procedural maneuver to shut down the hearing during prime viewing time today. At least, tha's is how it feels to me.)
Hearing back up again. See update above.
SEN. DURBIN QUESTIONS: Asking about Fitzgerald — "You felt that you could not communicate to the WH whether or not he was or was not a strong USA?" Sampson said that he didn't feel like he could communicate about this very sensitive topic. Durbin: Were you concerned by giving Fitzgerald a good rating, that it would affect your career adversely? Sampson says that he doesn't recall anyone ever saying anything adversely about Fitzgerald. Sampson says to the best of his recollection, he didn't want to say anything at all about him.
Sampson says that he remembers on one occasion in 2006, that he was speaking with Miers and Kelly and he raised Pat Fitzgerald – remembered at the time that it was the wrong thing to do, and he recalls that Miers and Kelly didn't say anything at all. Looked at him like he had said something totally inappropraite, "and I had." Sampson says that he said that maybe to get a reaction from them. Says Ftizgerald was never put on the list.
Durbin says that there used to be a time that Senators would submit only one name. The Bush DoJ is requiring multiple names — why has that changed? Sampson beleives when AG was Presidential counsel, he sent letter to Congress requesting 3 names for each vacancy (so it's been a Gonzales practice). Did you have conversations with Rove about Fitzgerald? Sampson says not that he recalls.
SEN. LEAHY QUESTIONS: Copy of document "US Atty. Appointment Summaries" (OAG #5). On this copy, you have bolded the name of Iglesias which, according to your key, means you want to retain him. Sampson says yes.
Leahy now going through a number of the successive e-mail listings — none of which included Iglesias as needing to be removed. 11/7/06 e-mail: to Ellston, to forward to Miers — Iglesias added there for the first time. Sampson says after 10/17, but before 11/7, the DoJ went back and looked at the list and asked if anyone else should be added — 4 additional people were added to the list. Leahy asks: are you aware of any list that the DoJ kept that had Iglesias name on it prior to 11/7/06? Sampson says this is the first one to the best of his knowledge. Sampson says this is the first document that he can recall including Iglesias — and that there are also 3 other redacted names that were on the list as well (CHS says: presumably these were folks who were no asked to resign.)
Leahy walking through the Wilson and Dominici complaints, calls back and forth via Rove,and a call from Bush to the AG to complain about Iglesias. Sampson doesn't recall hearing any complaints about Iglesias — does recall the AG receiving a complaint from Rove that voter fraud cases were not being pursued aggressively enough.
In 2004, Iglesias was a candidate for Deputy Attorney General — Sampson said that he was a "diverse up and comer." Sampson said that he had met David and thought very highly of him, and says that others at the DoJ had mixed feelings about him and that's how he got on the list. Doesn't recall him being on the list until after last Fall's elections.
SEN. SPECTER QUESTIONS: Questions about using the Patriot Act provisions to circumvent the Senate. E-mail to Miers dated 9/13 on "utilizing the new statutory provisions." Still pursuing this on an e-mail on 12/19 to Christopher ________ (missed the last name) — saying to push this with Senators, stall them and run out the clock, all of this should be done "in good faith" and to "run out the clock." Sampson says that Specter's reading is a fair reading — it was a bad idea at the staff level that wasn't accepted by others above — Sampson says that wouldn't have been in good faith. Specter says that there are continuing e-mails about this even later — it doesn't sound like something that was rejected. How could you spend 3 months working on something that the WH wasn't going along with — why would you do that? Did you consider abusing it? Sampson says that he recommended to Miers…Specter goes back to were you abusing the principle? Sampson says that would be an abuse of the AG's appointment authority, in hindsight.
Specter says that the inference that he sees from 3 months of work on a provision to circumvent the Senate, you must think that this is something that can be accomplished. Sampson says that he made the recommendation in order to be more efficient. Did you think the WH would adopt your recommendation? Sampson says that later things that he did showed that going through the regular process. Specter says let's go back to your e-mails, and not your dodge of my question, because I see three months of you pushing this. (paraphrasing here) 12/19 — more than three mnths later, you are proposing in bad faith circumventing Senate approval — would you be doing something like that in your own mind if you weren't thinking that the WH would consider using that Patriot Act provision. Sampson says he didn't think that the WH would do that for 92 districts — Specter says "What about one district?" Sampson says that he believed that it WAS under consideration at the WH for that district in Arkansas. Sampson says that he talked to people at the staff level about this and that it was under discussion with them — doesn't recall talking to Miers about this. "I don't remember specifically talking to Gonzales about this."
Specter says that it was a provision that was overlooked in the Senate, but that Sampson was clearly aware of that provision after Congress passed it. Saw the AG on a daily basis, multiple times a day, and talked about plans to replace USAs — but you never talked about utilizing the provisions of the Patriot Act to circumvent the Senate. Sampson says that he did, but that he didn't feel like the AG liked the idea. Doesn't recall him specifically rejecting the idea until some time in January. Specter asks did anyone at a higher level reject this in December? Sampson dancing around about a discussion with Sen. Pryor — did he reject it after the 12/19 e-mail? Sampson says he believes he did reject it after that e-mail, but doesn't give any specific date/timeline.
Specter is not satisfied with the responses on this. Griping about how this was put into the Patriot Act and how it was under consideration in at least one district by the WH, etc. (CHS says: Specter still says nothing about it being one of his staffers who inserted this.)
Am starting a new thread.