Senators Feinstein, Schumer, Feingold, and Whitehouse Call for Special Counsel Investigation into Attorney General Testimony
Jul 26 2007
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today joined Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible wrongdoing by the Attorney General, originating with his statements regarding the removal and replacement of several United States Attorneys, in addition to his testimony before Congress regarding the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP.)
In a letter to Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General responsible for matters where Attorney General Gonzales has recused himself, the Senators called for a special counsel to be appointed to examine the Attorney General’s statements on the U.S. Attorney scandal, his testimony before Congress regarding the TSP, and potential charges of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Gonzales testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in a Department of Justice Oversight hearing. During questioning by several members of the Committee, the Attorney General gave statements in conflict with his prior testimony before Congress.
Previously, Gonzales had testified that there had not been any “serious disagreement” within the Administration regarding a domestic warrantless wiretapping program known as the TSP. That notion was sharply refuted in testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who recounted a disagreement so intense that it almost led to his resignation, as well as that of John Ashcroft, Attorney General at the time. In his testimony this week, Gonzales contradicted himself by admitting that there had in fact been a dispute between the White House—where he was Counsel at the time—and the Justice Department over the TSP.
Additionally, a number of the Attorney General’s answers were in direct conflict with accounts from members of Congress and the Administration. Specifically, the Attorney General responded that TSP was not discussed at a March 10, 2004 briefing, despite a letter from John Negroponte, former Director of National Intelligence, indicating that the TSP was in fact the subject of that briefing. Testimony by CIA Director Michael Hayden also confirms that the TSP was discussed at the March 10 briefing.
The following is a transcript of Senator Feinstein’s remarks at this morning’s news conference:
“I gave a lot of thought as to whether I wanted to join in this effort or not. And I decided that I really had no choice. And I want to try to outline my reasons for that decision here today.
I deeply believe that Americans look to their Attorney General to be above reproach, to be independent, and to be free from political influence. They want a straight shooter who will enforce the law no matter what. But Alberto Gonzales has turned this office on its head.
Rather than be a straight shooter, this Attorney General obfuscates. Rather than demonstrate independence, this Attorney General states that he is dual-hatted, and serves the President as well as the people. Rather than enforce the law without fear or favor, this Attorney General has allowed politics to enter the Justice Department.
And where his mission is to uphold the law, Attorney General Gonzales may have crossed the line and misled Congress or even perjured himself.
So we’re calling for an independent special counsel, largely for three reasons:
- To look at whether in fact the Department has been politicized;
- To evaluate his misleading and often untrue statements to the Congress; and
- To look at the Administration’s decision to block any United States Attorney from pursuing charges of contempt of Congress against officials who have refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas.
I have never seen an Attorney General so contemptuous of Congress and his role as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States.
At least 9 US Attorneys have been fired, all (except possibly one) either for prosecuting corruption cases that the Administration didn’t want prosecuted or not bringing election fraud-related cases, with insufficient evidence, that the Administration did want prosecuted.
Secondly, political considerations were used in hiring, our hearings have shown that: Monica Goodling’s testimony that she “may have crossed the line” by making political judgments about the suitability of a candidate.
And third, political considerations may have been taken into account regarding a case management example: We had testimony from the lead attorney in the huge tobacco case who stated very clearly that she was ordered by Main Justice to lower the penalty the government was seeking against the tobacco companies.
Political considerations were used in employee evaluations: Example – Brad Schlozman admitted in testimony before the Committee that he ordered career staff to change employee evaluations.
One of the U.S. Attorneys asked to resign was Todd Graves of Missouri. His replacement: Brad Schlozman.
Brad Scholzman quickly filed a lawsuit against an organization in Missouri that was registering new voters. That organization was called ACORN. ACORN offered to cooperate. There were four small cases, ACORN said they would help, they would fire the people. Well the U.S. Attorney was in such a hurry to move before the election on the cases, that they even misstated the name of one of the accused and had to redo the documents later.
Now why is this important?
There are two books.
This one book is entitled Federal Prosecution and Election Offenses, Sixth Edition. It dates to January 1995. Underlying section in this book says, ‘Thus most if not all investigations of an alleged election crime must await the end of the election to which the allegation relates.’ That’s been practiced in the Department of Justice since at least 1982 that we have discovered.
All of these rules were weakened or eliminated in a subsequent edition dated May 2007.
Why? So that the Justice Department can move in before an election, bring election fraud cases, and change the entire procedure and practice of this department.
Obfuscation, prevarication, and untruths from the leader of this huge and critical department has reached in my view a point of no return.
Two days ago, I asked a simple question: How many US Attorneys were targeted for firing? The Attorney General said that he didn’t know.
This has been on the front burner for seven months now. Does anyone believe the Attorney General of the United States in charge of the department really doesn’t know how many U.S. Attorneys were targeted for firing? I don’t think so.
On this, and so many other issues, this Attorney General simply has not been straight with the Judiciary Committee carrying out our Constitutional oversight duties, or with the American people.
The time has come for some answers.
I don’t think we can accept, ‘I don’t know; I don’t recall; Well, we’ll get back to you on that’ – and then of course they don’t.
We called again this morning to try to get an answer to that simple question, ‘How many US Attorneys were actually targeted?’ We talked to people who were sitting right behind him at the hearing, ‘Well, we’ll do the best we can.’
That is simply not acceptable.”