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!
While we are waiting for testimony to begin, the WaPo has some interesting tidbits about the former AG in Kansas City having been asked to resign as well. This ties in to a lot of the reporting that The Muck has done on Schlozman, and ought to make for some interesting questioning. The big question in my mind this morning is who else the committee has talked to at this point that we don't know about — and that ought to be a question on the AG's mind as well. Paul Kiel at The Muck also has a good summary of the Gonzales opening statement for today. Shorter Gonzales: If Kyle Sampson had been a better employee, I wouldn't be in this mess. Yep, the pass the buck on responsibility trend continues.
The milling about in the hearing room has begun, and live coverage of it has started on C-Span3. Rep. Conyers and AG Gonzales are having a few words privately at the witness table before proceedings begin. I will update every fifteen minutes or so on the liveblogging. It is now 9:34 am ET.
Committee called to order at 9:37 am ET.
REP. CONYERS: Welcomes AG and says that he hopes that committee members will focus on the USAtty scandal and that any other matters not related to that will be saved for other upcoming oversight hearings. (CHS notes: Cutting off the unrelated filibuster tactic at the start. Good move, if it works.) Proper functionong of the DoJ is critical to the functioning of government. And I am sure that we agree that politicization "casts doubt upon any action or inaction that your department and your employees take."
Goes through questions raised as to how some cases were or were not pursued, says that we need to have answers as to who put together "the list" and notes that there is seemingly little actual knowledge admitted on this. Talks about letter from DoJ employees re: subjecting career employee hires to political litmus tests, discusses secret delegation of authority letter to Sampson and Goodling, goes on to question of destruction of e-mails and stalling on giving the Committee access to folks at the WH, etc., etc.
Conyers says the WH may be covering: "Who came up with the list? And why?" When will we get the entire truthful report on this matter? Conyers reminds the committee that the matters at hand are very serious — the reputations of good and honest public servents have been besmirched and former USAttys have been pressed to not cooperate with this investigation, the Hatch act may have been violated, and the DoJ's most precious asset — it's reputation ofr integrity and independence — has been violated. Until we get full answers on this, that will unfortunately continue.
REP. LAMAR SMITH: We have held three hearings with 18 witnesses, and have interviewed a number of people, we will soon hear from Monica Goodling and we have access to testimony in the Senate. Then goes on to belittle the potential for wrongdoing here and downplays the impact of substantial politicization of the DoJ's activities. Serious questions remain unanswered, but we shouldn't kid ourselves. Talks about an LATimes poll. Goes on to talk about terrorist attacks now and our scary porous borders. We have concluded hearings with all the major players in the Department, with the exception of Goodling. (CHS notes: the "nothing to see here, moving right along" ploy is not really working for me as a strategy this morning.) Tries to portray this as a fishing expedition with a leaky boat metaphor. We should talk with WH employees under the offer given to us from the WH, and be grateful they have offered it. Yield back balance of my time.
REP. CONYERS: Now introducing AG Gonzales via a background statement.
9:48 am ET
Point of order from Dan Lungren regarding a protestor banner from someone seated directly behind the AG. Conyers is annoyed with the folks in the audience — sounds to me as though they tried to discuss with the folks who are there what would and would not be permitted in terms of committee decorum during the hearing, and that someone didn't follow whatever may hev been discussed, just based on the back and forth.
AG GONZALES: Will summarize his written statement on record with the committee. Have done lots of things to protect America, including its children, but I am here to answer questions. My recollections about this matter have not changed (CHS note: since my last "do not recall" fest). Gonzales still accepting responsibility for the firings being done in a public spectacle sort of way. Says he has been extremely forthcoming about information thus far, and that he has soberly considered his prior testimony and conduct. Although the process was not as rigorous or as structured as it should have been, my decision to ask for resignations was not done for improper reasons, and so it should stand.
I did not ask these people to resign for improper political gain. I did not do that, nor would I. I have met with USAttys over the last few weeks to get suggestions in improving this process. I have learned lessons from all of this. I look forward to working with folks at the DoJ in the future and with this committee. And now listing some of the things that the DoJ does well.
REP. CONYERS QUESTIONS: How did the USAtty termination list come to be? Who suggested putting most of these people on the list? And why? If we can answer these questions, outside of the reticence of the WH to cooperate on this, answering this would go a long way to moving his forward. Gonzales says he accepts responsibility for "the process," and then launches into the "Sampson let me down in the way he conducted this process" discussion which is detailed in his written statement. Conyers interrupts and says we've been through this and yet you still aren't answering the questions — that should take about 3 sentences. Gonzales says "it is my understanding that Mr. Sampson went through a process of talking with a number of individuals, senior leadership of the Department"…Conyers interrupts and says, "So in other words, you don't know?"
Gonzales says that what he really needed was to talk with Sampson about this to refresh his recollection, in order to protect the integrity of the investigations he didn't want to taint the investigation information. Conyers goes through the Iglesias firing, and the involvement with Rove and Sen. Dominici putting their thoughts about Iglesias on the list. Gonzales says that he has no reason to believe that it isn't correct — but that he doesn't recall whether he was aware of that or not at the time that he made this decision, but he did have several conversations with the senior Senator from New Mexico wherein he was unhappy with Iglesias. Rove raised concerns about voter fraud investigations about 3 districts, of which NM was one. (CHS says: Where is the follow-up on this? What were the other two districts that Rove referred to? Arrrrrrrgh!)
REP. SMITH QUESIONS: Gonzales says he would not retaliate for partisan political reasons. Did the WH ask you to do so? Not that I recall. I don't believe that the WH ever did. Have you tried to mislead Congress? Of course not, I realize I have been inartful and overly broad. I said things that I should not have, but I've tried to support truthfulness and being forthcoming and accountability.
10:05 am ET
AG says that every public official should wake up wondering on how morale is in their department. Focus on doing your jobs and providing Congress with the information they need. The American people want to know that the DoJ is doing its part to keep them safe. Mentions predators and pedophiles.
REP. SANCHEZ QUESTIONS: Mentions the report on Graves being the 9th potential USA fired. Sanchez asks if there are any more they should know about? AG says it's always been his understanding that the focus of this investigation was only about those 8. (CHS notes: In other words, I'm going to try not to answer that, thanks.) Sanchez now asks about Yang — was her resignation entirely voluntary? Gonzales says that as far as he knows it was voluntary. Talking about the bonus for going to the firm. Goes into the fact that Yang was investigating Rep. Lewis? AG says he thinks he may have been aware of that but that they have a lot of public corruption cases going on…and that the AG is not troubled by the fact that the firm to which Yang went is also the firm representing Rep. Lewis. AG: The American people need to understand that this isn't even remotely improper and the investigation will continue. This is more of an appearance for the law firm and not the DoJ. (CHS notes: The DoJ would have had to sign off on a waiver to allow her to move to that firm, as I understand it. Did they do so — were there restrictions placed on walling her off from the Lewis case? They should ask about this. And about the AUSA from Yang's office who was also hired by the same firm.)
REP. SENSENBRENNER QUESTIONS: Has some questions about public corruption investigations as well. Brings up Rep. Jefferson questions — various folks who have already pled guilty to attempted bribery and other charges. Says his constituents in WI are asking about this particular LA congressperson's case. Gonzales says he cannot talk about the case. Sensenbrenner getting cranky now in a faux indignation way as he and Gonzales go through the "AG is too much of a good guy to talk about Jefferson, so I'll do it for him on the record."
Now going through a colloquy on on whether Rep. Lewis is a "target" (which is a specific legal term), or whether he is merely under investigation. We're having a lovely dance back and forth on this now, and the AG says that the DoJ is not confirming the Lewis is a target.
REP. NADLER QUESTIONS: Do you recall when Goodling started as your assistant? Doesn't recall, maybe fall of 2005?
10:22 am ET
Starting new thread.