Gonzales Slips on the Stand

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The Progressive

Gonzales Slips on the Stand

Matthew Rothschild

Alberto Gonzales is an Olympic skater.

An Olympic obfuscator, that is.

At his Senate Judiciary hearing, he used the phrase "I don't recall" dozens and dozens of times, including where it seemed gratuitous.

Feingold, who is the most talented lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, proceeded to dismantle the Attorney General.

As when Senator Russ Feingold asked him about the case of a Wisconsin prosecutor whose conviction of a state employee was summarily tossed out by the appellate court. Feingold: "Are you planning to have the department's Office of Professional Responsibility review this case?"

Gonzales: "Senator, I don't recall whether there's been action on that, but I'd be happy to consider that."

Then Feingold, who is the most talented lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, proceeded to dismantle Gonzales.

Feingold asked him whether he ever sought "specific information" from his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, about the US. attorneys after Sampson said Gonzales tasked him with identifying the prosecutors who should be asked to step down.

Gonzales said, "Senator, I can't recall whether or not at the time he made the recommendations that I said, 'Does this—who did you consult with and whose recommendations are these?' "

Feingold: "Did you at any time probe the information that Kyle Sampson provided to you?"

Gonzales: "Senator, I don't recall having specific questions. . . ."

Feingold asked him whether he'd ever requested a "report in writing on the progress of the project."

Gonzales: "I don't recall asking for a report in writing."

Feingold: "How about when the final decisions were made at any time prior to November 27th, 2006, when you approved the firings? Were you given or did you request a written memo or report giving the justifications for each of the decisions?"

Gonzales: "Senator, I don't recall that occurring. . . ."

Having set the trap, Feingold then sprang it.

Feingold: "In light of the fact that you had so little to do with the decisions, and made so little effort to understand the reasons behind them, you really had no basis for telling the American people in your USA Today op-ed of March 7th that these U.S. attorneys had lost your confidence, did you?"

And even more to the point, Feingold added, a bit later: "You can't really say with certainty, as you did in your testimony today, quote, 'that there is no factual basis to support the allegation, as many have made, that these resignations were motivated by improper reasons,' unquote. You can't really say that, can you?"

Gonzales: "Senator, I know the basis on which I made my decision. And I'm not aware of anything in the record, I'm not aware of any testimony which would seem to support the allegation that someone was motivated by improper reasons."

Of course, there's the document from Kyle Sampson evaluating which prosecutors were "loyal Bushies."

And there's the record of Senator Domenici calling up David Iglesias and then hanging up on him for not pursuing a political prosecution.

Gonzales himself testified that he had "heard concerns about the performance of Mr. Iglesias" from Domenici and Rove. (We should have known all along that this was not a rogue operation but a Rove operation.)

And perhaps most damaging of all, Gonzales testified that Bush himself, less than a month before the 2006 elections, "relayed to me similar concerns about pursuing election fraud in three jurisdictions."

The post-facto rationales that Gonzales offered didn't impress Senators of either party.

As Senator Feingold put it, "The fact that various justifications have been made up or concocted after the fact doesn't cut it with me."

Even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham agreed with that, saying that Gonzales's explanation for the canning of the prosecutors was "a stretch" and that the Bush Administration "made up reasons to fire them."

If Gonzales doesn't resign, he should be impeached for so politicizing the office of the U.S. attorney, as well as for his role in the torture and NSA spying scandals.

But let's not stop there. Bush and Cheney, too, deserve the same fate for these crimes and more, including the Iraq War.

And Rove: May he finally fall into a perjury trap.

I should live so long.

Matthew Rothschild is editor of The Progressive.

©  2007 The Progressive

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