Gonzales Follies

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Hearing, watching or reading Gonzales’ tragically comical performance yesterday is painful.   TPM Muckraker has a good Youtubed roundup.

The best part, everyone seems to agree, is this exchange with Sen. Schumer.  Schumer is pointing out how Gonzales in his previous testimony — um — basically lied to the committee.  Watch how Gonzales, the Attorney General of the United States — the numero uno law enforcement official in the country — weasels and dodges:

SCHUMER: I’ll let you speak in a minute, but this is serious, because you’re getting right close to the edge right here.  You just said there was just one program — just one. So the letter, which was, sort of, intended to deceive, but doesn’t directly do so, because there are other intelligence activities, gets you off the hook, but you just put yourself right back on here.

GONZALES: I clarified my statement two days later with the reporter.

SCHUMER: What did you say to the reporter?

GONZALES: I did not speak directly to the reporter.

SCHUMER: Oh, wait a second — you did not. (LAUGHTER)  OK. What did your spokesperson say to the reporter?

GONZALES: I don’t know. But I told the spokesperson to go back and clarify my statement…

SCHUMER: Well, wait a minute, sir. Sir, with all due respect — and if I could have some order here, Mr. Chairman — in all due respect, you’re just saying, "Well, it was clarified with the reporter," and you don’t even know what he said. You don’t even know what the clarification is. Sir, how can you say that you should stay on as attorney general when we go through exercise like this, where you’re bobbing and weaving and ducking to avoid admitting that you deceived the committee? And now you don’t even know. I’ll give you another chance: You’re hanging your hat on the fact that you clarified the statement two days later. You’re now telling us that is was a spokesperson who did it. What did that spokesperson say? Tell me now, how do you clarify this?

GONZALES: I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.

As Slate’s Emily Bazelon explains:

Even after all these months of tacking and backtracking, Gonzales’ lack of command of the details is something to behold. He doesn’t know the total number of U.S. attorneys who were fired. He doesn’t recall his participation in reversing former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton’s decision about whether to seek the death penalty in a case where all the evidence was circumstantial. He doesn’t know why DoJ’s new guide to prosecuting voter fraud removed or watered down key directives against pursuing cases in a way that could interfere with the outcome of an election. He doesn’t know why the Justice Department’s guidelines restricting communications with the White House now suddenly include a blanket exception for contact between the attorney general and the vice president and his counsel. And, of course, he doesn’t know who put the names of the U.S. attorneys on the list he approved for firing.

Of course, his incompetence is not criminal.  His lying under oath, however, is.  Gonzales was caught blatantly lying about disagreement at the Justice Department over warrantless domestic searches. He was also caught blatantly lying about the motivation behind the Ashcroft hospital visit.

In his testimony today, Alberto Gonzales blamed the Ashcroft hospital visit on Congress — particularly, the so-called Gang of Eight, the top congressional leadership and the leadership of the intelligence committees. As Spencer Ackerman noted late in the day, three members of the group — Democrats Daschle, Rockefeller and Pelosi — said Gonzales’ version of events isn’t true. In an interview with NPR, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) said the same thing — though she was a little ambiguous, suggesting that her ability to discuss the conversations in question were limited because they were classified.

So all four Democrats say Gonzales’ story is bunk.

Roll Call reported that some senators are taking this seriously.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have put himself in legal jeopardy with his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senators of both parties warned, as Members cast doubt on the truthfulness of his answers and suggested he may have improperly released classified information in his own defense.

Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told Gonzales at one point, “I do not find your testimony credible.”

He suggested the committee would “review your testimony to see whether your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable,” an apparent threat to consider charges against the attorney general for lying to Congress. (emphasis added)