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Gonzales Lies to Congress. Again.

June 14, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has lied to Congress - again. Raw Story is reporting that despite Congress' passage of the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, Gonzales has once again used the interim hiring authority for U.S. attorneys rescinded by that bill. Sadly, this is precisely what Gonzales promised Congress - under oath - he would never do.
During his January 18th testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, misled the Senate about the critical importance of a hitherto little-known provision of the Patriot Act enabling the Attorney General to appoint new prosecutors without Senate confirmation. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that:

"I am fully committed, as the administration's fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney."

As it turns out, not so much. Even as the USA Independence Act has languished on President Bush's desk since June 4th, Gonzales will used the interim authority to entrench of George Cardona, the acting prosecutor for the central district of California. The acting tenure of Cardona, who replaced the abruptly replaced Debra Wong Yang, is due to expire on June 16th.
That Gonzales lied under oath to the Senate on January 18th comes as no surprise. After all, the very purpose of the interim hiring provision clandestinely slipped into the Patriot Act was to enable the White House to elude Senate confirmation for a new wave of partisan Republican prosecutors, each with a mandate to pursue mythical voter fraud cases and ideally corruption among Democratic officials. A September 13, 2006 email from former Gonzales chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson to White House Counsel Harriet Miers makes Gonzales' later falsehood clear:

"I strongly recommend that as a matter of administration, we utilize the new statutory provisions that authorize the AG to make USA appointments. [...] By not going the PAS route, we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House."

Amazingly, this episode is at least the third time Alberto Gonzales provided outright falsehoods to Congress. In addition to his tall tale regarding use of the Patriot Act hiring provision, Gonzales on January 18th offered the Senate Judiciary Committee the Big Lie about the entire U.S. prosecutors purge scandal:

"I would never ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons or that in any way would jeopardize an ongoing investigation."

But as the email exchanges between Gonzales' chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson, White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Karl Rove deputy Scott Jennings show, that's exactly what was going on. A damning Sampson email described the system Gonzales' DOJ would use for ranking U.S. attorneys, keeping those who "exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general" and sacking the prosecutors who "chafed against administration initiatives."
And just weeks ago, the May 15th testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey revealed that Gonzales misled Congress about the scope of and DOJ consensus support for President Bush's illegal NSA domestic surveillance programs.
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey detailed then White House Counsel Gonzales' visit to the bedside of the hospitalized AG, John Ashcroft. In March 2004, Comey served as the acting attorney general during Ashcroft's recovery from emergency gall bladder surgery. In that capacity, Comey had refused to recertify President Bush's illegal NS domestic surveillance program. On March 10, Gonzales and Bush chief-of-staff Andy Card went behind Comey's back to pressure an "extremely ill and disoriented" Ashcroft. Ultimately, President Bush intervened to make changes to the NSA eavesdropping program to avoid the resignation of Comey and others at the Justice Department. But clearly, Alberto Gonzales showed he was quite comfortable in bringing bedside pressure to bear on Ashcroft, a man described as "very, very ill; in critical condition, in fact."
On June 5th, 2007, Attorney General Gonzales confirmed Comey's account of the NSA program question during that troubled March 2004 hospital confrontation. "Mr. Comey's testimony," Gonzales said, "related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago." But on February 6th, 2006, Gonzales assured that Senate Judiciary Committee that this same program enjoyed unanimous support within the Department of Justice:

"There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed."

This latest chapter in the duplicity of Alberto Gonzales comes even as Scooter Libby faces the prospect of prison - or pardon. Meanwhile, Libby's Judge Reggie Walton faces threats of violence from the vengeful right-wing fringe.
Welcome to the rule of law in George W. Bush's America.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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