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Dems turn up the heat on Gonzales

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April 11, 2007

041107gonzales.jpgCongressional Democrats investigating the firings of eight U.S. attorneys are serving notice to Alberto Gonzales (right) and the White House that they had better come through with long-demanded documents that have been either withheld or heavily blacked out.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers on Tuesday issued a subpoena for hundreds of Justice Department documents that must be turned over by next Monday, less than 24 hours before Gonzales is scheduled to explain his role in the firings to the Senate Judiciary Committee in what is widely considered a last chance to save his job.

There’s more where that came from, as the White House tries to balance its stated desire to be forthcoming about the firings with its fierce protection of internal documents.

The Senate panel is expected to keep up the pressure by authorizing subpoenas Thursday to compel cooperation from White House officials.

Unlike Conyers, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate committee, has not issued any subpoenas in the firings investigation. But Leahy, D-Vt., sent a letter to Justice requesting the redacted information — often a prelude to issuing a subpoena.

It all adds up to relentless pressure on an administration that for six years of Bush’s tenure operated with virtually no oversight from the Republican-controlled Congress.

No longer.

The firings of prosecutors from California to Arkansas and Gonzales’ shifting explanations have produced calls from some lawmakers of both parties for a new attorney general.

Some, like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California — home to two of the dismissed prosecutors — say Gonzales lied in private conversations and have demanded that he step down. Others, such as Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., have called for Gonzales to resign because of the accumulated damage done by the firings and other Justice problems, like excessive use of secret national security letters in terrorism cases.

Still others, such as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., have noted that Justice Department e-mails make clear that Gonzales’ chief of staff at one point advocated using a new provision in the USA Patriot Act to install federal prosecutors without Senate confirmation. Nevertheless, Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, appealed for open minds until Gonzales has a chance to tell his story.

Despite the pressure and a challenge facing Gonzales that some see as insurmountable, Bush is standing by his longtime friend from Texas.

“I think the Justice Department has been working very hard to be fully responsive to the request, as the president asked them to do,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday.

Democrats disagree, complaining about the blacked out, or redacted, portions of more than 3,000 documents released by Justice last month.

“We have been patient in allowing the department to work through its concerns regarding the sensitive nature of some of these materials,” Conyers wrote Gonzales in a letter accompanying the subpoena. “Unfortunately, the department has not indicated any meaningful willingness to find a way to meet our legitimate needs.”

Responding, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse stopped short of saying the department would fight the subpoena. But he said the department has not released them because of legal concerns about violating privacy rights of people mentioned in the documents.

“Much of the information that the Congress seeks pertains to individuals other than the U.S. attorneys who resigned,” Roehrkasse said. “Because there are individuals’ privacy interests implicated by publicly releasing this information, it is unfortunate that Congress would choose this option.”

He added: “In light of these concerns, we will continue to work closely with congressional staff and we still hope and expect that we will be able to reach an accommodation with the Congress.”

–LAURIE KELLMAN


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Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan and Ben Feller contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

4 Responses to Dems turn up the heat on Gonzales

  1. TryingToUnderstand

    April 11, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Can someone please explain why this is a controversy? Presidents have always fired attorney’s. What is the problem? Why does anyone care what Gonzales did or didn’t say. Memos etc. Who cares!

    This all seems like “Much ado about nothing.”

    Surely there are more substantial things that the senate and the federal govenment can concentrate its energy on.

  2. Derek

    April 11, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    There are real concerns that these prosecutors were singled out because they were either going after Republicans or refused to go after Democrats. When questioned on it, Gonzales lied .When questioned on it, other members of his department lied.

    Now every remaining DA is in doubt. If these others were tossed for not playing along as ‘good bushies’ (their words, not mine), then did the ones that remain play ball? Were they good bushies?

    What would you like me to explain next? Why we’re so upset about the administration touting supposed yellow cake purchase in Africa?

  3. Jim C

    April 12, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    When a new administration takes office it is customary for the federal attorney’s to offer resignations and they are usually accepted , that is standard practice . But once in office the attorneys are supposed to be independent and are practically never fired unless there is some serious ethical problem . I believe only two or three have been let go in the last thirty years , and those with cause . What seems to have happened here is these attorneys were fired because they wouldn’t pursue phony voter fraud cases or because they were about to or in the process of prosecuting high level and well connected republicans . These are very powerful positions and it would be at the very least unethical if they were being preasured into being political hatchet men which seems to be the case . Another interesting question is what the other 85 did to keep their jobs . There is growing and convincing evidence that there were several politically motivated and malicious prosecutions involved . From your comment I would have to believe you are getting your information from right wing spinmeisters . Try going to more independant sources and the scales will fall from your eye’s and things will be much more clear .

  4. The South Point

    April 12, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Gonzales belongs in Leavenworth.