Do not forsake me, oh my darlin’ …
The Senate Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement with the White House to produce a letter to “clarify” the testimony of Alberto Gonzales on his midnight meeting at the hospital with John Ashcroft. The letter must arrive by noon today, and the committee will release it immediately to the news media. At that point, they will determine whether to recommend an investigation into perjury charges against the Attorney General (via Memeorandum):
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.), emerged from a crucial Monday briefing and gave the Bush administration 18 hours to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony.
Gonzales took issue last week with former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s description of internal dissent in 2004 over the legal authority for the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program. Frustrated Democrats called for a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales for perjury, noting that several officials have publicly echoed Comey’s account. Those calls prompted Specter to request a classified briefing to clear up the dispute.
Specter aides released a statement late Monday that suggested a bombshell to come on Tuesday afternoon.
“Given the difficulty of discussing classified matters in public, I think it is preferable to have a letter addressing that question [of Gonzales’ veracity] from the administration … by noon tomorrow, which will be made available to the news media,” Specter wrote in the statement. “The administration has committed to producing such a letter.”
Whatever the letter says, the perjury issue will likely die off, as even Ruth Marcus notes in her Washington Post column today. No fan of the AG, Marcus argues that Gonzales didn’t commit perjury, and that the Senate would be foolish to argue otherwise:
As the Times put it, “If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.”
Congress deserves better than technically correct linguistic parsing. So the bipartisan fury at Gonzales is understandable. Lawmakers are in full Howard Beale mode, mad as hell at Gonzales and not wanting to take it anymore.
But perjury is a crime that demands parsing: To be convicted, the person must have “willfully” stated a “material matter which he does not believe to be true.”
The Supreme Court could have been writing about Gonzales when it ruled that “the perjury statute is not to be loosely construed, nor the statute invoked simply because a wily witness succeeds in derailing the questioner — so long as the witness speaks the literal truth” — even if the answers “were not guileless but were shrewdly calculated to evade.”
In other words, the Senate Judiciary Committee did a lousy job of asking the right questions. In fact, Gonzales tried to tell them that during the interrogation, which I watched as it happened. The committee members should have easily read Gonzales’ desire to go into private session to clarify his answers at that moment, but they either were too caught up in themselves to notice or deliberately ignored it. He obviously wanted to give them a more complete answer but could not do so in open testimony, due to the nature of the counterterrorism activity.
Marcus is right in another respect, which is that Congress has taken this badgering too far. These programs over which they have attempted to trip Gonzales are not new, and Congress has been aware of them for almost six years. Regardless of whether the data-mining efforts qualify as a separate program or not, the entire effort has been overseen by Congressional delegations since 2001, and kept in check by them and the DoJ since. If the Senate thinks that it has moved outside of the legal boundaries established in 2001 and adjusted at the insistence of Congress and the DoJ in 2004, then ask about that — but quit playing games and exposing confidential national-security efforts just to harangue Gonzales out of office.
I say this as no fan of the AG, as CQ readers know. My friends at Power Line have an excellent post up about why they feel the need to defend Gonzales. They see him as strong on the war (agreed) and able to stand up to the Democrats in Congress. I disagree, both on his ability and the requirement of the latter. His appearances before Congress have been disasters in which he has argued that he has little knowledge of what his aides do at his own department, even to the extent of firing high-profile presidential appointments without any guidance from him.
The AG, in a perfect world, should be fairly independent and minimize the politicization of the Justice Department in order to maintain confidence in the fairness of prosecutions and the implementation of policy. It’s when this office seems excessively partisan that we get the plague of independent prosecutors that run roughshod over justice. This administration is not the first to have a politicized DoJ, but it’s not something we should encourage.
Gonzales should have resigned months ago, but the Senate has now made that almost impossible with their hysterics over a perjury that never happened. We’ll see which side backs down at High Noon today. Unfortunately, we’re woefully short of Gary Coopers these days.
16 thoughts on “High Noon For The AG”
When are these Democrats,House & Senate going to knock off all these investigations and pass some meaningful legislation that will benefit the citizens of this country.
Spector is an ass too(symbol of the Dems.).
He bombarded Gonzalez with one question after anothe without giving him a chance to answer.
This was an attempt to embarrass him ,much like Schumer does,to the people he gets before him.
No attempted answer was acceptable..he only wanted to hear a yes or no.
narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct
Given that the AG was addressing the Judiciary Committee, one would have expected the best and bright legal mind in the Senate to be members.
If these clowns can’t handle a legalistic argument, then the republic is doomed.
“When are these Democrats,House & Senate going to knock off all these investigations and pass some meaningful legislation that will benefit the citizens of this country.” Chuckster
Never, I hope. The more time they spend cementing their reputation as the Worst Congress in History, the better for all of us.
We have plenty of Gary Coopers. What we are in short supply of in Congress is a Will Kane. All of our Will Kanes are serving in Iraq.
I agree with those pro AG zealots … let’s keep the guy around until this “lame duck president” limps out of office! He is an excellent lightening rod! He is the only one in the administration that makes Bush look respectable.
In all probability the two programs are different., despite being part of a NSA intercept efforts. Especially with NSA, each program has a separate codeword. AG Gonzalez was probably using this criteria, which is valid.
Codewords to identify a program are classified, but generally only at the lowest classification, confidential,. The White House could easily declassify the codewords, which are non-descriptive, to put this all to rest.
It just shouldn’t be neccessary with rational people. But that’s not what we are dealing with.
“Congress deserves better than technically correct linguistic parsing.”
In the old days this might be true.
Who knows what Congress knows?
Obviously they (Congress) are confused which is not a big surprise.
If they required separate authorizations, they were separate programs. Period. No matter how otherwise parsed.
And they apparently did require separate authorizations.
“Given the difficulty of discussing classified matters in public, I think it is preferable to have a letter addressing that question [of Gonzales’ veracity] from the administration … by noon tomorrow, which will be made available to the news media,”
So to clear up the problems associated with classified matters, we’re going to air the classified matters in public? Excuse me?
The dhimmies on the committee asked the questions exactly as they wanted, and knew they would lead to their ability to make false claims of perjury.
They are trying to out yet more intel operations, as part of their dedication to defeat.
Free Frank Warner has some good points in his The Nifonging of Alberto Gonzales.
STUNNING demand for Congress – the Senate has ALREADY PRONOUNCED PERJURY TO BE A “TRIVIAL MATTER” – in the case of Bill Clinton.
So, on what basis does CONGRESS demonstrate that they DESERVE better than PARSING?
Would it be that new “ETHICS” bill? The way they handled three full years of slander of the White House regarding PLAMEGATE?
“THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE”?
That they just re-upped for the NEA, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU – not to mention funding the UN???
etc etc etc, ad nauseum, et al, Toady Chappaquiddick Kennedy? etc etc etc,
They should pray they do not get what they deserve.
Remembering that when more than 200 names of American spies were declassified, and all were killed within 24 hours, no charges were brought against American politicians who did the willful declassificating.
Clinton Administration and Congress.
Nicely done Captain.
“Do not forsake me, oh my darlin’ …”
(Very fair, reasoned, strong, in typical CQ fashion)
If Gary Cooper only had an ethical President standing behind him facing high noon…
I never believed the AG should resign for poor performances in regard to testimony, or even some confusion in relation to delegating.
Especially when his work in overall policy seems acceptable, even commendable in the GWOT.
For myself, Powerline’s expression is spot on.
Even when someone is not perfect, we as US citizens, cannot sit by and accept the unethical political criminalizing by corrupt partisans.
In my own humble opinion, if Conservatives were as outraged at this constant Democrat Partisan garbage, as they are regarding Illegal Immigration, we would see Washington change dramatically.
But the best remedy for the corrupt Democrat Folly is to turn out the vote in 2008, bringing the GOP back to the majority force in the House, Senate, and another Presidency.
Gonzales should have resigned months ago, but the Senate has now made that almost impossible with their hysterics over a perjury that never happened
And who would you make their next victim?
This has been one DEM witchhunt after another. Anyone that doesn’t understand Comey’s role in all this crap (think Plame) is sadly uninformed. They took out Rummy and DeLay……they took out Libby. They have aimed for Rove and Cheney all the way. They point and the Pugs go running……..trying to appease.
We could no more appease Dems than you could Al-Q in Iraq.
Sen Schumer is running this show, as he did the others. Heck, he even had people working for him , do a little corruption, right in our faces.
Where are the calls for his resignation?
I ask again………who would you have become their next meal? There is not a power on earth that will stop them from going after the next on the list. They intend to take all seats at the table in 2008 and Pugs have allowed them to leave everyone of their players in action. Rocky? Schumer? Jefferson? Reid? Instead we bail on a non-crime. The above named have to be laughing their azz off. All they have to do is POINT.
All of the “perjury” talk flying about now is related to the NSA programs — what about the other blatant lies? He never discussd the case with Ms. Goodling (admitted lie in his July testimony), the attorneys were fired for cause (admitted lie July testimony), etc.
Its like standing in a 4 alarm fire and noting “well, the couch is only smoking.”
As Ruth Marcus noted, perjury requires intent.
It has been painfully obvious from Gonzales’ testimony that he has an extremely difficult time understanding what is going on, and an even more difficult time explaining just what he thinks he understands. I am dismayed that a President I supported appointed someone as incompetent and incapable as Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General.
That said, I agree with Owl2: this is a Democratic witchhunt that will only be emboldened by the resignation of Gonzales.
Rich Lowry had a good line yesterday – “Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been a particular target, and why not? He’s so incapable of defending himself that, for grandstanding Democrats, cuffing him around is risk-free fun, like cruel kids pulling the wings off insects.”
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