Mr. Sampson presents himself as contrite at 10:32am this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He opens reminding the committee of his dedication to public service.
Sampson says he was responsible for overseeing possible US Attorney firings beginning in 2004 when there were suggestions to replace all of them. He describes a long period of time devoted to information gathering. He would compile recommendations from senior staff on individual US Attorneys.
He makes clear his strong opinion that there were no improprieties in the firings saying "decisions were properly made but poorly explained." He takes full responsibility for his role in the department responses to this situation and that is why he offered his resignation.
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Arlen Specter states the need for testimony. "It has to be written down, that is the essence of our judicial system"
Jeff Sessions speaks on the office of AG and his pride in serving in that position. "Emails indicate you understood very well the difficulty in removing these US attorneys. Sessions points to inconsistencies in the emails Sampson authored, making particular reference to emails from Sampson that openly discusses the use of the new provisions in the Patriot Act allowing for US attorney replacement without the process of confirmation.
Sampson is asked "Have you met with the president since 2004?" (Answer) "No". (Question) "Are you aware of any presidential decision regarding US attorneys?" (Answer) "I am not aware of any."
Back to Arlen Specter who presses on the connection in asking Carol Lam to resign and investigations being pursued by her office. (Answer) "The real problem with her office was the immigration enforcement" (Question) "Regarding the US attorney in New Mexico, your emails show his name was not added until 11-07-0 which was the day of the election and after certain calls were placed, was he asked to resign because he refused to carry out investigations of voter fraud. Are you prepared to state under oath..." (Answer) "To my knowledge, they were not." (Question) "AG Gonzales says on 3-13 that he was not at all involved in discussion on this, but emails show...was your email correct about AG Gonzales being present?" (Answer) "I don't think the AG statement that he was not involved was accurate. I think he has recently clarified." (Question) "So he was involved in discussions?" (Answer) "Yes sir."
Sen. Schumer goes over Gonzales' statement on 3-13, "Is that statement accurate?" (Answer) "I don't think it's entirely accurate. We did discuss it as early as Jan 2005 before he even took his office. I remember discussing it with him on an ongoing basis." (Question) "The AG says the mistake was that you did not share information, is that true?" Sampson profoundly struggles in answering this and makes a couple attempts to sidestep a direct answer. Schumer continues to break in requesting a direct answer. Sampson finally answers "I don't think it's accurate."
Feinstein then rather dramatically presents a letter signed by Director of Field Operations of US Customs. A letter of commendation written regarding the performance of Carol Lam US attorney and that office's 100% performance in pursuing immigration cases. Feinstein holds that against the email from Sampson and his earlier statement here that Carol Lam was replaced for not bringing immigration cases. Sampson begins an answer on how his work was based on senior DOJ recommendations when Feinstein addresses a short list of specific cases being brought or investigations being initiated by fired US attorneys. Sampson continually denies particular recollections of these issues.
Jeff Sessions drives home and interesting point in this question, "This idea to remove a number of us attorneys - did the AG object to removing any us attorney?" (Answer) "No." Sessions responds to that with "You know, the Attorney General is the country's lawyer and sometimes they just have to say no."
Upon questions of US attorneys "making the list" because of complaints on pursuing voter fraud cases, Sampson testifies that he recalls the "AG coming to him with complaints from Karl Rove on US attorneys in three districts."
Sen. Cardin addresses the issue of no documentation. With puzzled angst, he questions Sampson on how there could be no documentation to reflect his 2 years of work on evaluating US attorneys. (Answer) "It wasn't scientific and wasn't well documented." (Question) "Do you see a perception problem here?" (Answer) "In retrospect, I do. I want to take responsibility for that. I acknowledge it was a failure on my part and others [pause] for not realizing the perception problem that could result.
Sheldon Whitehouse quickly fires questions. "Who have you discussed your testimony with?" (Answer) "Noone." (Question) "Who has it been coordinated with?" (Answer) "Noone." (Question) "Did you keep one file?" (Answer) "Again, just sort of a drop file in my desk drawer." (Question) "Did someone keep it for you?" (Answer) "There really was no documentation to this, just [pause] notes."
SAMPSON SAYS IT WAS HIS SUGGESTION TO USE NEW PROVISIONS IN PATRIOT ACT TO CIRCUMVENT THE SENATE.
Under questioning by Schumer Sampson says that yes - he was articulating a plan to use the new provisions in the Patriot Act to circumvent the senate. He takes responsibility for that as a "bad idea on a staff level."
Sampson admits to suggesting Fitzgerald be fired as a means of cutting a lifeline to the case Fitzgerald had against members of the executive - but then says he has absolutely no recollection of considering adding US attorneys to the list of those to be fired based on the cases they were prosecuting or avoiding.
Sampson - "Looking back on all of this, I wish we could do it over again. In hindsight I wish the department had not gone down this road at all."
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