19 April 2007

The Much Anticipated Gonzales Testimony Begins

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Firing of U.S. Attorneys

9:33am - Opening Statement - Sen. Patrick Leahy

With the cameras diligently focused on Alberto Gonzales, we listen to Senator Leahy's statement while watching Mr. Gonzales shake his head through much of it.

Leahy says, "If nothing improper was done, then people need to stop hiding the truth. If there is nothing to hide, the White House should stop hiding."

"Just any answer won't do any more."

9:44 - Opening statement - Sen. Arlen Specter

"You come to this hearing with heavy burden of truth."

Specter reviews methodically, the previous statements by Gonzales that have since been directly contradicted. "This is your opportunity, Mr. Attorney General to tackle this heavy burden of truth and to re-establish your credibility."

"Until we hear from you, I am going to regard these as allegations."

Leahy grants two minutes of opening to Sen. Schumer and Sen. Sessions

9:52 Sen. Schumer

"I hope and expect we won't get meandering answers that take up time and don't answer the questions"

9:55 Sen. Sessions

"Your ability to lead the Department of Justice is in question"

9:58 Alberto Gonzales is sworn in

9:58 Opening statement - Alberto Gonzales

Mr. Gonzales had submitted a 26 page opening statement in writing. The committee made that a part of the record and Mr. Gonzales makes a far more brief opening statement comprised of a portion of his written statement.

"I regret how they [fired US Attorneys] were treated"

"These attacks on my integrity have been very painful to me" I understand how my statements caused confusion."

"While the process was flawed, I firmly believe nothing improper occurred."

He does state several times that he feels nothing improper occurred, and that he takes responsibility for his misstatements and the unfortunate mismanagement of this issue.

10:04 - Sen. Leahy

"Do you recall when you had the conversation with Karl Rove on concerns over US attorney not perusing voter fraud?"

(AG) "I believe it was the fall of 2006"

When asked for more details on these meetings regarding those concerns, Gonzales says "I now recall there was a meeting with the President on these concerns - voter fraud"

(Q) "When was that?"
(A) "I have reviewed my calendar and I now know that meeting was on October 11th"

Sen. Leahy devotes some time to reviewing the exact circumstances surrounding the firing of Iglesias.

10:14 - Sen. Specter

Sen. Specter also reviews previous statments made by Mr. Gonzales as well as his written opening statement that contradict the actual events.

(AG) "I have already said that I misspoke." "I have already conceded that I misspoke in that press conference."

Specter says, "Now, I know you have prepared for your testimony here...

Gonzales interrupts - "I prepare for every hearing senator"

Specter is visibly annoyed at this and begins drilling him "do you prepare for you press conferences?" Gonzales stumbles. Specter "Do you prepare for you press conferences?"
Gonzales, appearing to notice his misstep here winds up apologizing to the Senator.

10:26 - Sen. Kennedy

"In your opening statement you indicated that you had limited involvement, and then you say my decision is justified and should stand. Since you apparently had limited involvement how can you justify your decision?"

Gonzales begins by saying "Good question Senator" but then launches into "I believe the record shows nothing improper was done..."

Kennedy stops him and presses Gonzales on how he can stand by his decision and testify to nothing improper happening when Gonzales states he had limited involvement only, that it was not a vigorous process and it was a task he gave Sampson.

AG - "Since then, I have reviewed all the documents."

10:36 - Sen. Brownback

Sen. Brownback indicates his desire to run down the list and get a reason for each of these firings.

(Q) Daniel Bogden, why was he terminated.
(A) "since going back to review the documents, I understand the concerns were a matter of energy level."
(Q) Paul Charlton in Arizona
(A) "What I recall knowing of his poor judgment in pushing forward a recommendation on a death penalty case.
(Q) Kevin Ryan
(A) "I was not surprised to see Mr. Ryan on the list. I was aware of poor management in that office."
(Q) Margaret Chiara
(A) "Same issue. I have since learned that this was a similar case of poor management."
(Q) "Bud" Cummins
(A) "Mr. Cummings is someone who was on a different track. He was asked to resign on June 14th. Because there was another qualified individual that the white house wanted to go into that office."
(Q) John McKay
(A) "Generally I recall there being serious concerns about his judgment. We were concerned about the way he pursued an information sharing project."
The Senator does not ask about Iglesias and Lam.
10:47 - Sen. Kohl
"What is the rationale for remaining as US attorney general...Why is so important that you remain in this office?"
(A) "This is not about Alberto Gonzales...I have admitted mistakes in managing this issue but the department in general has not been mismanaged." "I believe I am still effective in my role as Attorney General, I ask myself that every day. The moment I believe I can no longer be effective in my role as Attorney General, I will resign."

11:05 Sen. Feinstein

"Whose idea was it to change the law ... to add in conference, an amendment which effectively gave you the ability to appoint US attorneys without senate confirmation? Whose idea was that?

(A) "I don’t recall specifically the genesis. I will say this, I did support the change not to avoid senate involvement, but I don't agree with the Senate deciding who serves on my staff."
(Q) And you are saying you made these decisions [on firings] without reviewing the performance reports"
(A) "Senator (pause) yes again, that is correct."

11:18 10 minute recess

Great Blog Talk On This:

Captain's Quarters - Gonzales Hearing: Live Blog
Firedoglake - Just Warming Up?

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