Gonzales: ‘I have nothing to hide’

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fighting to save his job, said in prepared Senate testimony Sunday he has “nothing to hide” in the firings of eight federal prosecutors but claimed a hazy memory about his involvement in them.

Two Republican senators said Gonzales has yet to shore up his credibility amid shifting explanations of his role in the dismissals. Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed White House support for the attorney general — but left it to Gonzales to defend himself to lawmakers who have called for his resignation.

In his 25-page statement, Gonzales apologized for embarrassing the eight U.S. attorneys and their families by letting their ousters erupt into a political firestorm that has engulfed the Justice Department since January. He maintained the firings were not improper, but said he remembers having only an indirect role in the plans beyond approving them.

“I have nothing to hide, and I am committed to assuring the Congress and the American public that nothing improper occurred here,” Gonzales said in prepared testimony released before he appears Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel, which oversees the Justice Department, is investigating whether the firings were politically motivated.

“I am sorry for my missteps that have helped to fuel the controversy,” he said.

Gonzales added: “In hindsight, I would have handled this differently. … Looking back, it is clear to me that I should have done more personally to ensure that the review process was more rigorous, and that each U.S. attorney was informed of this decision in a more personal and respectful way.”

Cheney said he and President Bush continue to have “every confidence” in Gonzales and looked forward to hearing his testimony. Lawmakers also are questioning what role White House officials, including chief political strategist Karl Rove, played in the firings.

“This took place inside the Justice Department,” Cheney said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “The one who needs to answer to that and lay out on the record the specifics of what transpired is the attorney general, and he’ll do so.”

GOP Sens. Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham said Gonzales has a difficult battle ahead in convincing the public he can lead the Justice Department.

“The No. 1 question is, is he capable of administering the Department of Justice, did he have enough hands on to know what’s happening?” said Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate panel’s top Republican. “Can he explain why these individuals were asked to resign and justify the reasons for doing so?”

“He’s got a steep hill to climb,” Specter said. “He’s going to be successful only if he deals with the facts.”

Graham, R-S.C., said he believes Gonzales can save his job. Still, the attorney general has “an uphill struggle to re-establish his credibility with the committee given prior statements.”

“He needs to explain what he did and why he did it,” Graham said. “There are three or four different versions of his role in this, and he needs to bring clarity to what he did and why he did it.”

Specter spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Graham appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

In his written testimony, Gonzales claimed he vaguely remembers discussions about the firings, including being asked about at least two possible replacements for vacant U.S. attorney jobs. He also said he recalled “two specific instances” when he was told that then-White House counsel Harriet Miers was seeking updates of the Justice Department’s prosecutor evaluations.

He indicated he trusted his most senior aides, including Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, to select prosecutors who would be asked to resign, based on their performance. “It was to be a group of officials, including the deputy attorney general, who were much more knowledgeable than I about the performance of each U.S. attorney,” he said.

But Gonzales indicated he could not definitively say whether he was involved in decisions on selecting which prosecutors would be targeted. The few, brief updates on the firings he received from Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff, “focused primarily on the review process itself,” Gonzales said.

“During those updates, to my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign,” Gonzales said.

Sampson left the Justice Department over the controversy March 12. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 29 that he remembered discussions with Gonzales regarding “this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign.”

Sampson was being interviewed again Sunday by congressional investigators, said his attorney Brad Berenson.

Gonzales also said he may be unable to answer all of lawmakers’ questions because, trying to avoid any influence on his own testimony, he intentionally did not review transcripts of what his staff told congressional investigators in closed-door meetings. “As a result, I may be somewhat limited when it comes to providing you with all of the facts that you may desire,” he said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., one of Gonzales’ most vocal critics and the first to call on the attorney general to resign, said the written remarks did little to clear up questions and contradictory statements about the firings.

“Fuzzy recollections do not help us get to the bottom of what happened,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday. “Evasive answers do not clear up the many contradictions uncovered so far. ‘I don’t’ know, ‘I don’t recall’ or indirect answers that avoid the questions will not do.”

Gonzales signaled he had no plans to step down — a decision that he has said repeatedly should be left to President Bush. He sought in his testimony to move past the prosecutors’ scandal, and touted numerous Justice accomplishments under his tenure, including civil rights cases, drug smuggling crackdowns and efforts to protect children from sexual predators.

“I look forward to working with you in the coming months on these topics and the department’s other missions and priorities,” Gonzales wrote.

–LARA JAKES JORDAN and HOPE YEN

___

Associated Press Writers Ben Feller and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

8 Responses to "Gonzales: ‘I have nothing to hide’"

  1. SEAL  April 15, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Let’s see if I understand this? The person in charge of the Justice Department, the Attorney General of the United States, does not decide or have any real concern about who the 93 federal prosecutors working for him will be. Is that what Gonzales said? Sure seems like it to me.

    Just who is it that makes those 93 decisions? What about the rest of the employees under him? Who decides who they are? Isn’t it rather odd that the boss of something, anything, doesn’t care who works for him? I’ve never heard of that before. I’m the boss. I make the decisions. I hire and fire all of my people. Its the most important thing I do. The success or failure of my business depends on my employees.

    Another question: Why would the political advisor to the president be a party to a decision about who is or is not a federal prosecutor? He might be asked if there would be any political conflict with any person considered but he certainly is not qualified to judge any prosecutors qualifications or abilities. Therefore, after Rove is asked and answers the one question, why would he be involved? Unless the decision was purely a political one.

    Do you suppose any of the democrats on the committee will think to ask Gonzales about these things? He has already declared his defense will be that he had almost nothing to do with it and won’t be able to remember much about it other than approving whatever it was. In other words, he plans to sit in front of the committee and the American people and say that he is not doing the primary part of the job he was hired for – Placing the best possible prosecutors in the right positions to uphold the laws of the nation. My understanding is that the Attorney General’s primary duty is to enforce the laws of the United States. At least that was the way it was before the year 2000.

  2. gene  April 16, 2007 at 7:08 am

    Sure (bone head) and we believe everything coming out of your lieing mouth. Just like your f**k head leader who is even better at lieing than you. How could anyone (except mabe bushy boy) be so stupid as to think for a moment anyone and I mean (most) anyone would believe this hosse shit. A dam two year old could be more conviencing. These people would insult a moron’s intelligence.

  3. Sandy Price  April 16, 2007 at 7:46 am

    I believe the Attorney General’s office has always been at the request of the President. I’m no fan of Janet Reno and certainly lived in fear of John Ashcroft. But we all must realize that when we elect a President we are also living under a threat of his appointees. Nothing Bush does is a shock to me. We know he is the mouth piece for Pat Robertson who has made his living brainwashing the American Christians.

  4. Wayne K Dolik  April 16, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Wouldn’t it be nice if America had a real decent Attorney General? I nominate Ms. Carol Lam!

  5. geyser  April 16, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Taking One Day at a Time

    I’ve done hiring and firing at my job and position.
    That was Fifteen years ago. I can still remember every name, every position and every reason. If Alberto’s memory is that bad, how did he make it out of Law School?
    Of course he has nothing to hide. When you’re making it up as you go along, there is no need to hide anything it’s all new.
    Scandal after Scandal, people going to trial, people going to jail. Do we put up with this for over two more years? Must we live with more scandals, being embarrassed to the world, remain the laughing stock of the world? How does our Congress let this go on, don’t they feel any shame to stop it?
    It is a very sad picture that a body of supposedly intelligent men and women, allow this picture to be constantly added to while they sit idly by and do nothing to effect a change.

  6. SEAL  April 16, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Right, Geyser. The whole thing is like a bunch of fourth graders on the playground fighting over who will rule the sandbox. If it wasn’t for the deadly consequences, it would be laughable.

  7. Razor  April 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Funny thing about politicians ( lawyers ).
    They write the laws.
    They enact the laws.
    They enforce the laws.
    They argue the laws
    They judge the laws.

    But when do they follow the law?

  8. SEAL  April 17, 2007 at 1:39 am

    When they get caught…laffin

    Bill Mahr made my point this week if you didn’t see it. He pointed out that Goodling was one of the 150 graduates of that religious law school [the name?] where it was so easy to get a law degree because they only had one book to study. He said she was very young [early 30s], never worked as a prosecutor, or had any qualifications for the DOJ job she had. And when she found herself in big legal trouble did she reach out to one of her alumnus? Nope. She hired a “real” lawyer from one of those Ivy League schools to represent her.

    I was thinking the other day how easy a law school must be when there are only 10 laws you have to learn about…lol

Comments are closed.