April 19, 2007

Gonzales Hearing: Live Blog

I will be live-blogging the appearance of Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning at this post. I'm waiting for the hearing to start on C-SPAN now. Keep checking back ....

8:39 CT - It's already started, and Leahy's giving the committee's opening statement. Gonzales is shaking his head when Leahy asserts that Gonzales wanted to politicize the DoJ. Normally, people refrain from reacting to these statements ...

8:42 - Leahy's managed to throw in Katrina and torture in the three minutes of his speech I caught. It sounds like Leahy has no problem politicizing this hearing beyond the issue of the fired attorneys.

8:43 - Arlen Specter says the purpose of the hearing is to determine whether Gonzales should continue in his post. I hadn't realized that they had issued articles of impeachment. Specter says that Gonzales has an opportunity to re-establish his credibility and to justify the termination of the prosecutors, and takes Gonzales to task over the contradictions between his testimony and that of his underlings and the documentation.

8:48 - Specter has an eye injury or infection, and it looks painful.

8:49 - "We want the hard facts so we can make an evaluation." Specter sounds as if articles of impeachment might be in the offing.

8:52 - Both Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy insist that the burden of proof has shifted to Gonzales to explain the firings and the contradictions in a way that refutes the criticism. Schumer wants a "clear and cogent" reason for each of the eight terminations. "If a president fired every US Attorney for having an IQ above 120 because he didn't want smart people on the job, he would be legally allowed to do so -- but a Congress that didn't challenge that silly plan wouldn't be doing its job."

8:54 - Jeff Sessions, who served as a US Attorney, says that the job is tough. He reminds Gonzales that an AG has to be above reproach, and that Gonzales' statement inappropriately minimized his role in the firing process. He tells Gonzales that they shouldn't have fired the attorneys in the first place.

8:57 - Gonzales starts off his statement, as did the Senators, by talking about Virginia Tech and the law-enforcement response that inspires him to serve its cause.

8:59 - "They deserved better ... they deserved better from me."

9:01 - His limited involvement was "a mistake I freely acknowledge". "The process was nowhere near as rigorous as it should have been.

9:04 - Okay, C-SPAN just stopped covering the event to switch to the House, which just gaveled into session. Yes, I'm sure it's much more newsworthy to watch that than the Gonzales hearing. I'm trying to pull it up from C-SPAN's website.

9:22 - Still having problems. C-SPAN's Windows Media links don't work, and I have not installed Real Player on my two laptops. I'm rectifying the second problem. I'm pretty fried that C-SPAN didn't use C-SPAN2 to televise this hearing if they were going to stop showing it on their primary channel.

9:25 - Up and running on one of the laptops now. Gonzales ended his statement, and now we're going into questioning. Of course, he's started with Virginia Tech. We get it -- everyone cares.

9:26 - Kennedy is going back to Gonzales' statement that the process was "not vigorous" and his involvement "limited". If so, how can he insist that the firings were proper? Gonzales says that his senior staff recommendations were credible, and that he has reviewed the documents since the terminations. Kennedy is staying tough on this point -- at the time of the firings, how could Gonzales have known whether the firings were improper when he signed off on them?

9:30 - Gonzales says that he didn't know why two of the attorneys were fired at the time.

9:34 - Kennedy: Did you evaluate the impact of the firings on ongoing investigations? Gonzales: The system is designed to withstand departures of this type, since assistants usually conduct the prosecutions. He also insists that he had "genuine concerns" about Carol Lam's immigration prosecutions.

9:39 - He's explaining the firings on an individual basis. On Bogden, he has no independent recollection of the reasoning. On Charlton, he disagreed with the implementation of death-penalty policy without coordination with the DoJ. Ryan: poor management in the San Francisco office. Chira (sp?): Same as Ryan, although he has discovered that only after the firing.

9:43 - Cummings: was on a "different track", as his resignation was requested much earlier. McKay: poor judgment with his colleagues and the DAG. Also sent an inappropriate message about partnership and resources to state and local officials.

9:49 - Herb Kohl is trying to get Gonzales to do some investigating on Steven Biskupic and whether he was on a list to be fired, and if so why he was taken off of it. Gonzales points out that to do that would be to interfere in the Senate's investigation. Kohl then used the rest of his time to make a statement demanding Gonzales' resignation. I'm not sure why he didn't just start with that. If he wants a resignation, why bother to ask him to go back and investigate the Biskupic affair?

9:55 - "The moment I believe that I can no longer be effective as Attorney General, I will resign." He tells Kohl that he wants to get to the bottom of all the questions.

9:56 - Apparently, some of the audience thinks that they're at a ball game; they are holding up signs either supporting or opposing Gonzales, and Leahy just warned them that anyone who does it will get ejected. Good.

9:57 - Orrin Hatch is giving Gonzales some softball questions in order to get him a chance to recover somewhat.

10:05 - Dianne Feinstein now takes her turn. She wants to know who came up with the idea of bypassing the Senate on replacement USAs. Her objection is that the change got worked into a conference committee report without coming to the Judiciary Committee. Gonzales has no recollection of why it was handled in that manner.

10:09 - Feinstein underscored the point that Gonzales didn't look at the performance reports before firing the prosecutors, which Gonzales confirms.

10:12 - Gonzales says he doesn't know whether anyone looked at the evaluations. Now she's pointing out that Lam was a highly-ranked prosecutor, and outlines her background on everything. She also points out that the majority of prosecutions in Lam's office were related to immigration, especially regarding alien smuggling. Feinstein had been told she was doing well, and no one communicated any concerns about the immigration issue to Lam directly before her firing. Gonzales disagrees; he says that a number of communications had taken place about the level of her prosecutions on immigration.

10:59 - I'm coming back to this -- got a call from the boss, which was more interesting than some of the sturmund drang of the hearing. Russ Feingold, as expected, came across forcefully in excoriating the AG for allowing the perception to arise that the fired attorneys were in some way incompetent. Now Sessions is asking questions, and he is giving Gonzales a chance to re-establish himself as a moderating influence by opposing the firing of all 93 attorneys.

11:03 - Gonzales says he opposed the idea of avoiding Senate confirmation on interim appointments, saying that attorneys need the full support of the US government to do their jobs properly.

11:07 - Gonzales insists that Lam had been informed about the concern over her numbers for immigration enforcement, and Schumer points out where Lam and Sampson both say in testimony that she had no idea about it. Gonzales says she may not have been aware she would get fired, but members of Congress and the DoJ had sent her memos about the issue. Schumer says that the issue is a key question to credibility, while Gonzales says it's a matter of communication. Expect to see this on the news shows tonight.

11:12 - Schumer's now covering the Sampson advice to "gum this to death". Gonzales says he rejected the plan for the dismissals and told Sampson he didn't like it. Schumer wants to make the point that his chief of staff implemented it anyway -- which makes Gonzales' leadership very questionable. If Gonzales rejected it, why did Sampson implement it anyway? This is one of the major problems with Gonzales' performance -- he's an absentee CEO.

11:18 - Gonzales is combative -- fighting for his job, obviously -- but he's in an impossible position. Either he's lied, or he's not been a good manager of the DoJ.

11:19 - Even Lindsay Graham isn't buying the explanation that Gonzales rejected the plan but then allowed Sampson to implement it. Graham also wonders where the change in Senate confirmation process originated.

11:24 - Graham: These explanations are a stretch. Some people just had personality conflicts with some US Attorneys and decided to get rid of them.

11:27 - Why is Dick Durbin asking questions about Patrick Fitzgerald? He didn't get fired, and in fact got appointed to be special counsel for the Plame investigation. So what's the problem how he was evaluated?

11:31 - Now Durbin wants to know whether Gonzales spoke with Rove about removing Fitzgerald. Did Fitzgerald get removed? No. So why go into this? My connection is getting pretty choppy, but this seems pretty pointless. Durbin asked a better one, about whether he regrets firing Iglesias, and Gonzales is acknowledging that the question is a fair one.

11:36 - They're breaking for lunch, and the audience is catcalling Gonzales, yelling "Liar!" and something about torture, and now "Impeach! Impeach!" It's a farce, and so is this hearing, on both sides. The Democrats still have offered not even a shred of evidence that Gonzales did anything illegal in firing these prosecutors, and Gonzales has done nothing to re-establish his credibility. He's sticking by the defense that he managed the process poorly, which should have resulted in his resignation. No one's going to come out of this looking good.


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» Liveblogging Alberto Gonzales testimony before Senate Judiciary committee from Sister Toldjah
Captain Ed is currently liveblogging AG Alberto Gonzales’ appearance before a Senator Judiciary committee, where he is testifying again about the 8 fired attorneys ’scandal.’ Read the latest info on that here. Looks like there is a... [Read More]

» Captain Ed is Live Blogging the Gonzales Hearings from J's Cafe Nette
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» Bumbling, Stumbling Gonzalez’s Last Chance from The American Mind
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» The Much Anticipated Gonzales Testimony Begins from Cest Moi Political Blog
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» Gonzales In The Hot Seat from Iowa Voice
I’ve already weighed in on what I think he should do. I didn’t get a chance to watch any of the hearings, but I’ve been reading up on it at some of the blogs and in the media. Captain Ed live-b… ... [Read More]

Comments (31)

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 9:12 AM

Re 9:04 am (10:04 for us on Eastern Time), I could understand Fox or CNN breaking away for important things such as a new development on Anna Nicole, but why C-SPAN?

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 9:29 AM

Looks like CNN is covering it, kinda (got a split screen with a talking head)

Posted by biwah [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 10:17 AM

Feinstein underscored the point that Gonzales didn't look at the performance reports before firing the prosecutors, which Gonzales confirms.

It's hard to see how they will get more than this out of Gonzales. He has effectively passed the buck and will be judged for doing so. Just plowing around on assorted issues is not going to help the senators get useful testimony.

They should parse out his "involvement" in the entire firing process in detail. That's the only remaining fertile ground for this witness. Maybe that's what Feinstein is doing.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 10:28 AM

I cannot find the link, but didn't Feistein send Gonzales a letter complaining about Lam?

Posted by Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 10:36 AM

Live video stream can be watched at this link
(which is on CSPAN3)


Posted by JEM [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 11:06 AM

NPR is broadcasting it (of course.)

In the little bit I've been able to listen to, Gonzales is a remarkably poor witness. He is in a tough position; he put the rope around his own neck in this matter and now he's just trying to keep the stool from being kicked away.

It's just amazing how many times the Bush Administration has done what might have been the right thing, but done it so tentatively and with such poor external communication that they leave themselves open to being thumped on the head for it.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 11:45 AM

It's a sad state of affairs when the USAG is so stupid and incompetent that he makes US senators look (almost) professional and wise in comparison.

Posted by MarkD [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 12:57 PM

Anybody else as nauseated as I am by the thought that "credit report" Schumer is passing judgement here? It is indeed a sad state of affairs.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 12:59 PM

I think Bush will stick with Gonzales, just to remind the Congress that they're not all-powerful. Not yet. And there's only about 1-1/2 years left. That's not going to draw out America's best and brightest, to apply for such a thankless job.

Posted by continuum [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:05 PM


Republican Senator Coburn from Oklahoma just tore Gonzales a new a-hole.

Then, told Gonzales that he should resign.

If a Repulican senator from OK is telling him to quit, then it's time for Fredo to realize that he is toast.

Posted by Tom Shipley [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:07 PM

"I think Bush will stick with Gonzales, just to remind the Congress that they're not all-powerful."

As I said before, it would be Bush at his most petulant.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:10 PM

This entire hearing is an absolute waste of time and I have no interest in anything about it.

What a total waste of taxpayer dollars.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:16 PM

Re: Tom Shipley at April 19, 2007 02:07 PM

Gonzales is still a great improvement over someone like Janet Reno. It's not like our previous administration gave Bush a high bar to clear, or any bar to clear.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:29 PM

Bush will stick with Gonzo, just for the reason RBMN mentioned: at this point, no sane person would undertake a Senate confirmation for the job for such a short period.

I also agree with NoDonk that it is a waste of time. I got the impression the Democrats would just have soon burned him at the stake and be done with it, but couldn't find anyone in their caucus who could build a fire without help.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:30 PM

Gonzales is still a great improvement over someone like Janet Reno. It's not like our previous administration gave Bush a high bar to clear, or any bar to clear.

This administration hasn't even FOUND the bar yet much less even attempted to clear it yet!

This entire hearing is an absolute waste of time and I have no interest in anything about it. What a total waste of taxpayer dollars.

You are correct, Bush should have fired him weeks ago.

I think Bush will stick with Gonzales, just to remind the Congress that they're not all-powerful. Not yet. And there's only about 1-1/2 years left. That's not going to draw out America's best and brightest, to apply for such a thankless job.

I think the reason is much simpler than that, Bush is an idiot surrounded by idiots. In Gonzo though Bush has actually found someone that makes him look just below average instead of pityful.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:42 PM

Even the people who are running this circus, think it's a joke.

Does anyone seriously think the Democrats see this as anything other than a chance to get their faces in front of a camera and as political theater?

The Democrats have rigged what is laughingly referred to as our "legal" system into a stupid game.

It's all about Democrats scoring political points and secondarily, about enriching a few lawyers.

That's all there is to it. Anyone who wastes their time discussing the fine legal points on display here, might as well spend their time playing dungeons and dragons.

Who cares? The rules will all change tomorrow, depending on whose ox is gored. And the lawyers will get richer.

This "hearing" is a fiasco and a farce.

Posted by Tom Shipley [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 2:55 PM

"Who cares?"

Reminds of playing game of whiffle ball when I was a kid. You'd go up 12-0 on your friend and they'd storm off muttering "who cares about this stupid game anyway.


Does this answer your question?



There are legitimate questions that Gonzalez needs to answer. So far, he's been shown to be a liar or incompetent in answering those questions.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 3:07 PM

Oooo gee, the NY Times and the Boston Herald.

Don't care, not reading it.

Would all change if a Democrat were in office.

Don't care about Gonzales, one way or the other. Fire him. Get some other completely worthless lawyer in there. Any bloodsucking lawyer scum wiil do.

If you're a member of the favored victim class or a millionaire, you get justice. The rest of us spin the wheel and get what we get.

If we're lucky, if one of the preferred victim class kills us, law enforcement will pick up our body while the media runs a video to celebrate the life of the murderer.

And I am consistent. I hate abortion, but I think it's a waste of time to pursue anything in what passes for our soup sandwich of a "legal system".

It's a rigged game. Ask the Duke Lacrosse players.

Our "legal system" was bought by the lawyers and they own it. The rest of us play three-card monte when we enter a courtroom.

Posted by The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 3:18 PM

So now Democrats are going to subpoena Bush Administration officials to learn "what did the Senate know, and when did it know it"?

Why doesn't Feinstein know who drafted the language? Because the 100 Senators not only do not believe in oversight and checks and balances between the Senate and other institutions, but they practice compartmentalization among themselves.

I think the executive branch has firm ground to refuse to discuss the process by which the Senate develops legislation.

Posted by starfleet_dude [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 3:39 PM

No one, not even Karl Rove, can hope to keep all the lies straight to cover up the truth of why those U.S. attorneys were really fired.

Gonzales at one time might have been made to be the fall guy, but no longer given his complete and utter ineptitude. No one seriously believes that the impetus to fire those attorneys came from anyone other than Karl Rove and was signed off on by President Bush. The only thing keeping Gonzales in his job is to keep the heat off Rove for as long as possible. Well, all bad things must come to an end also, and it can't come soon enough for Gonzales.

Posted by OldDeadMeat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 3:52 PM

Couldn't bring myself to listen to this thing - I have about a 1,000 better things to do with my time, like flossing my teeth.

Just looking at the Captain's post and these comments makes me glad I didn't bother.

Nobody looks good, utterly depressing.

On a different forum, I used to have a signature line that went, "Remember, America always has the government it truly deserves."

Lord, I hope that's wrong.

Current events this week have been so depressing that I am signing off until Tuesday at least. I'd druther skip Monday altogether.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 3:58 PM

"Remember, America always has the government it truly deserves."

I guess that means we are going to hell in a breadbasket, then.

So Churchill said that "Democracy is the worst system of all, besides all the rest."?

I think Winston might be rethinking that today. Anarchy might be preferable to our Congress.

Posted by pilsener [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 4:03 PM

starfleet dude -

you wrote: "No one seriously believes that the impetus to fire those attorneys came from anyone other than Karl Rove and was signed off on by President Bush"

The reason that Gonzales looks so lame is that it should never have mattered what anyone believes about the reasons for the firings. The attorneys serve at THE PLEASURE of the President - the original position only had to be - "We decided to replace these 8. We thank them for their service. For personnel privacy reasons, no further statements will be made. "

End of story. No scandal, no continuing controversy, no lame hearing where Gonzales gets to exhibit his mediocrity.

Posted by Brooklyn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 4:12 PM

i still see yourself as being far to harsh on the AG, in the face of an absurd partisan deceit.

it is well established that this was a delegated responsibility from AG Ashcroft's Tenure, to deal with the Attorney's performance.

again, Captain, to be fair, you fail to acknowledge this is during the GWOT, where the CEO of the AG's Office is truly 'occupied'.

he clearly did not lie, but made a few mistakes, which mostly comes down to a poor, incomplete, testimony in the beginning.


thus, as Conservatives, we know no one is perfect, even when they overall, do outstanding jobs...

some bloggers on the WWW, have made countless mistakes, overblowing nothing into something.

and everyone in our Gov., would be forced to resign regarding the standards some are using to judge AG Gonzales.

the failure to simply rebuke the ugly partisan agenda of the Democrat Party, only emboldens the folly.

and it is the responsibility of all Americans to condemn this garbage from the Democrat Politicians, in a clear, firm manner.

or it will grow...

equating a few mistakes, is simply not objective, or reasonable.

the desire for some to be above the fray, is not helping anyone...

and the bias slant developed in Conservative circles, after the 2004 reelection, towards this Administration, continues to taint reasoned perceptions.

and still, it seems the AG's Office got it right, about those who should be removed.

Posted by JEM [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 4:24 PM

If the administration had pushed them all out, it wouldn't have raised eyebrows.

If the AG had forthrightly stood up at the time and said "We are replacing these US Attorneys because their actions and priorities do not adequately reflect the policies of this Administration" they'd have had, I think, a clearly defensible position.

Instead, we're seeing reeking piles of bovine excrement oozing from every door at the DOJ and it's completely self-inflicted. They tried to sneak down the back stairs, got caught with their keys jingling and now they're making excuses. This is Amateur Hour at its worst.

Let's remember this is substantially the same Senate that looked and sounded like a police station drunk tank at 2AM during the Roberts and Alito confirmation but Gonzales barely got out with his arms and legs. Was this his effort at a rope-a-dope?

I'm with Coburn on this one.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 4:40 PM

An observation:

Many conservatives here, even if they're not exactly thrilled with Gonzales, have an even deeper distrust of the Senate dems. They believe - not without reason - that Leaky, Trashcan Chuckie, Babsie, and The Swimmer are simply out to score political points and otherwise couldn't care less about the US attorneys, just as they didn't care when Slick Willie fired them en masse some years ago.

Here's the point: libs LOOOOVE to complain that the hated Chimpy McBushitler is "dividing" the nation, and that he's too "partisan". In short, It's All Bush's Fault(TM).

What are the dems doing to try to unite the country? What are they doing to demonstrate that they put the country above politics and that they represent ALL the people, not just the nutjobs at moveon.org? I submit that they aren't doing a damned thing. Ultimately, the political games they are playing will do every bit as much damage to our country and our people's faith in our government as anything they've accused Bush of doing.

"Checks and balances" only works when the various parties are perceived as acting in something other than selfish, partisan interest.

Posted by Tom Shipley [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 5:06 PM

"Oooo gee, the NY Times and the Boston Herald.

Don't care, not reading it. "

This is why so many conservatives LOVE the media bias card. It's crutch. Don't like the truth, just yell MEDIA BIAS and you're done.

It's about as lazy and weak an argument you can make.

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 6:22 PM

Gonzales is detached, doesn't talk to his subordinates. Allows them to make decisions he should make. As the Captain says, an absentee landlord.

I loved how Kohl tried to get Gonzales to say he would resign if the polls showed him with low numbers -- sort of like saying "I'm not going to say you should be fired, but I'm going to get you to say it". Didn't work and made Kohl sound like a real hack. How many politicians resign when their poll numbers are bad?

Of course there's nothing illegal here -- the opening remarks by Leahy indicates that he understands that all the attornies serve at the President's pleasure -- no if, ands, or buts. And then turns around and talks about illegal firings.

Gonzales may be toast, but he defended the career guys serving under the DA's. He pointed out that charges were filed against at least one leading Republican prior to the election, and that none of the investigations so interesting to the Democrats have been derailed, nor were investigations so interesting to the Republicans sped up.

And for Feinstein to excoriate Gonzales when she shoved one of the bigger knives into Lam is ludicrous.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 7:23 PM

This is why so many conservatives LOVE the media bias card. It's crutch. Don't like the truth, just yell MEDIA BIAS and you're done. It's about as lazy and weak an argument you can make.

Yes, but when you don't have any other reason or excuse to fall back on ... you use it. The big bad MSM made me do it.

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 7:52 PM

If dems are partisan hacks, then so too are the republicans. Lets get that caveat out of the way. I listened to all of the Gonzalez hearings. He is indeed a poor witness. My theory is the firings came out of Rovers office. This has his fingerprints all over it. That why his RNC e-mails "mysteriously" got deleted. Gonzalez tried to use the "no laws were broken" defense and one of the senators said (paraphrasing here) we expect more of your leadership than just not breaking laws i.e. the way it was handled. Does ANYBODY on this blog think he's qualified to be the AG? He's way over his head on this one. Nodonkey, are you always happy-go-lucky. You should change your online name to sourpuss.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 19, 2007 11:40 PM

Why leftists never take conservatives (or Bush) at their word:

"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack." --George S. Patton