Gonzales grilled on Capitol Hill

AG Alberto Gonzales
Gonzales testifies (AP)

A confident Attorney General Alberto Gonzales endured another congressional grilling on the botched firings of federal prosecutors Thursday, seeming secure enough to call it a "somewhat liberating" experience.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee fired tough questions at him — as their Senate counterparts had last month. But Gonzales seemed to weather the interrogation better this time around, and he didn't hear any more calls for his resignation.

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that only President Bush and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had stood solidly behind him. But House Republicans at Thursday's hearing echoed Gonzales' call for Congress to move on.

Nevertheless, Democrats such as Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Robert Wexler of Florida shouted for more information about who decided which prosecutors to fire.

"You know who put them on the list but you wont tell us," Wexler complained to Gonzales.

The attorney general said he had little to add to the story. "My feelings and recollections about this matter have not changed," he said. Gonzales' answers to the House panel were in sharp contrast to his testy responses to senators three weeks ago.

In contrast to Republican senators who shook their heads in exasperation at Gonzales' failure to remember key details about the firings at the earlier hearing, House GOP lawmakers sprang to his defense.

"The list of accusations has mushroomed, but the evidence of wrongdoing has not," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's senior GOP member. "If there are no fish in this lake, we should reel in our lines of questions, dock our empty boat and turn to more pressing issues."

Democrats showed no willingness to quit asking questions about whether White House officials ordered the firings of prosecutors not sufficiently loyal to the Bush administration. Democrats probed whether the Justice Department scuttled more prosecutors than the eight jettisoned over the winter, asking about prosecutor resignations in Los Angeles and Missouri.

"The department's most precious asset — its reputation for integrity and independence — has been called into question," said committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich. "Until we get to the bottom of how this list was created, and why, those doubts will persist."

"Cooperate with us," Conyers appealed to Gonzales.

"I'm trying, Mr. Chairman," the attorney general replied.

Having survived months of calls for his resignation, Gonzales appeared less nervous. He acknowledged a sinking morale at the Justice Department in the wake of the prosecutor firings but made it clear he plans to remain as attorney general — despite what he described as his mistakes in overseeing the dismissals.

"This process is somewhat liberating," he said.

Republican members of the House panel moved on to other subjects — though much of this questioning was no more friendly. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked why there had been no new developments in the federal bribery probe of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.

"I cannot talk about that," Gonzales replied.

"Well, everyone is talking about it except you," Sensenbrenner shot back. "This is kind of embarrassing."

The questioning quickly turned back to the fired prosecutors.

Under persistent questioning Thursday about who originated the list of prosecutors to be fired, Gonzales maintained that his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, put it together after gathering information from other senior officials in the Justice Department.

"I understood it to be the consensus of the senior leadership of the department," Gonzales said. He acknowledged, however, that presidential adviser Karl Rove raised concerns with Gonzales about voter fraud prosecutions in three jurisdictions, including New Mexico. David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney there, was later fired.

Democrats focused on whether Todd Graves, a former federal prosecutor in Missouri, was forced out a year before the others because he refused to sign a Justice Department lawsuit alleging voter fraud a year before the 2006 elections. As the Senate Judiciary Committee requested answers from Graves' replacement, House lawmakers sought answers from Gonzales.

"I have no basis to believe that case had anything to do with Mr. Graves' departure," Gonzales said under questioning from Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Gonzales also said that Debra Yang, formerly the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, resigned in October to take a higher paying job at a private firm.

In the three weeks since Gonzales' Senate testimony, the department disclosed that it is investigating whether his former White House liaison, Monica Goodling, weighed the political affiliations of those she considered hiring as entry-level prosecutors. Consideration of such affiliations could be a violation of federal law.

More of the fired U.S. attorneys also have told congressional investigators they were warned that if they publicly protested their dismissals, Justice Department officials would publicly criticize their performance. And there have been new allegations that U.S. attorneys were evaluated on their enthusiasm for pursuing voter fraud cases that might benefit Republican candidates.

Conyers is holding a subpoena for Rove but has not issued it. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week subpoenaed Gonzales for all e-mails the Justice Department has gathered regarding Rove and the firings.


  1. Hal Brown

    I endured the entire hearing watching a 3 inch image on my laptop (my cable doesn't get C-SPAN3), and saw a stammering, uncomfortable totally out of his element man – answering confrontational questions in a far squeaker than usual voice.

    He sat like an automaton as each and every Republican sucked up to him while he waited to see whether the next Democrat would fire the golden bullet, a question he couldn't come up with a rehearsed answer for which would rip down the Oz-like curtain of fabric of administration lies, and reveal him for the sniveling excuse for a man he really is.

    Where Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press comes up with the characterization of  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales exuding confidence is beyond me.

    Did she even watch the entire hearing or is she just a blind-loyal Bushie? The biggest clue that he was anything but confident was when he said it was a "somewhat liberating" experience.

    So is puking your guts out when you have the flu.

    If he was exuding anything, it was flop sweat.

  2. gene

    So just another butt sucking asskissing, arrogant Bush lover. Having characteristics just like his beloved boss who by the way is a very good friend of God or is it Jesus…..(laughing) somewhat prsumptious mabe? The only way to stop this insanity is to hang them all in front of the white house and let their corpes rot in the swealtering sun.

    I would walk to Wash DC to watch it. These evil, arrogant freaks are not going to change. I hate this republican party that are as sicking as Bush and his white house gain of lieing bastards. Your uncluded in this Condi girl.

    Has this country ever witnes such arrogant and disrepect for honesty and law. These devils make Nixon look like a f**king saint.

  3. Hal Brown

    Read today's main New York Times editorial here

    Excertps from "A feeble perfomrance"

    Mr. Gonzales does not have the ability or the moral compass to do his vitally important job.

    As disturbing as Mr. Gonzales’s convenient memory lapses and apparent prevarications was his unwillingness to engage the moral seriousness of this scandal.

    Nothing in this stumbling, evasive, amnesia-filled performance gave any reassurance that the firings were proper. It was a reminder that Mr. Gonzales’s record was deplorable before the prosecutor purge.

    Beyond the unseemly images of Mr. Gonzales high-fiving his team for riding out the attorneys scandal, the spin from some quarters was that his testimony was successful — simply because he smiled blankly and refused to be ruffled when his answers and integrity were challenged. Mr. Gonzales can cling to his office as long as the president supports him and Congress does not impeach him.

  4. KayInMaine

    …was when one of the democrats was yelling at Gonzo and he got so flustered that he said that he’s still pleasuring the president or something like that! I howled.

    Oh yes, he’s still pleasuring alright. He’s lying to cover for Karl Rove so the real crimes by this man are not exposed (think voter fraud & the RNC and those pesky missing emails!).


  5. Bill Jonke

    “Pleasuring the president” crap???

    Gonadsless finally admits to asskissing Bush???

    That certainly is one thing he DIDN’T have to admit; it’s been quite obvious!

  6. Arlo J. Thudpucker

    Each and every person listening to Gonzales’ non answers knows he is lying.

    His multiple failures to recall are simply stonewalling.

    In addition to the lies he has already told the committe, he is steadfast in his refusal to provide answers.

    Conequently, he can and should, be held in contempt.

    Alberto should spend the next 12 months in jail.