Attorney General Gonzales set to testify over firings

United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will testify April 17 before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain his role in the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Senate Democrats have made other requests of Gonzales and his office that they want to be fulfilled prior to his appearance.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the committee, sent Gonzales a letter asking for a written statement that contains “a full and complete account of the development of the plan to replace United States Attorneys, and all the specifics” of Gonzales’ role in the matter.

According to committee rules, Gonzales must file his statement no later 48 hours before his hearing begins. Leahy’s letter also noted that the committee had not received responses to questions it sent to the director of the FBI-part of the Department of Justice.

“You would not tolerate this kind of response time in a Justice Department investigation,” the letter also said, “where months go by without answers and when those answers are finally provided they are outdated or superseded by events. That is not conducive to effective oversight.”

Gonzales will receive intensive preparation for the upcoming testimony, several news sources reported Thursday. He has canceled personal plans in favor of such preparations, and some political experts believe that the quality of his testimony could determine whether he keeps his job.

Democrats have also tried to get more information on the firings from Monica Goodling, a special counsel to Gonzales. Goodling, however, has refused, and has said through statements that she would not sit for even an informal interview.

Goodling’s lawyer is also on record saying that the investigation is “politically charged” and that Goodling would claim her Fifth Amendment rights if she were called to testify.

Gonzales first stated on March 13 that he had no role in the firings. He said he was “not involved in seeing any memos” or “discussions about what was going on.”

During a March 30 hearing, however, Gonzales’ former top aide, Kyle Sampson, said that his boss’ statements were wrong and that there was discussion from the top on the matter.

“I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate,” he said. “I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign.”

Sampson also indicated that White House counsel Harriet Miers was involved in the decision-making process.

His testimony sparked outrage among some Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who said during a recess of the hearing that the attorney general’s credibility had been “shattered.”

After Sampson’s testimony, Gonzales said he believed that his previous statements were consistent with the testimony. He also said that his role was minimal and he “did not recall” discussions and deliberations about the matter.

“I signed off on the recommendations and signed off on the implementation plan. And that’s the extent of my involvement,” he told reporters shortly after Sampson’s testimony came to light.

“I know what I did, and I know the motivations for the decisions that I made were not based on improper reasons, he said.”

In the light of the scrutiny facing Gonzales leading up to his committee hearing, his office requested the testimony be moved up-a request that was denied in Leahy’s letter.

“The Committee set the hearing for that date to accommodate you,” the letter said.

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