Sampson Contradicts Gonzales Over Resignation

On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that his chief of staff Kyle Sampson had resigned because Sampson had provided “incomplete information” to senior members of the Justice Department who had testified to Congress about the White House role in the U.S. Attorney purge:

Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information, incomplete information, was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress. I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress, it is accurate and that it is complete and I am very dismayed that that may not have occurred here.

But last night, Sampson’s lawyer Bradford Berenson released a statement contradicting Gonzales. Berenson claims Sampson resigned because he failed to “organize a more effective political response,” not because he misled anyone:

Kyle did not resign because he had misled anyone at the Justice Department or withheld information concerning the replacement of the U.S. Attorneys. He resigned because, as Chief of Staff, he felt he had let the Attorney General down in failing to appreciate the need for and organize a more effective political response to the unfounded accusations of impropriety in the replacement process.

Now why would he do that? As CREW pointed out in its letter to Gonzales calling for a special prosecutor, Sampson’s misleading may have been a federal crime:

According to press reports, Sampson has acknowledged that he did not tell DOJ officials about the extent of his communications with the White House regarding the firings. Justice officials who testified before Congress, including the attorney general, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and Principal Associate Attorney General William Moschella, all told Congress that the White House, though consulted, was not deeply involved in the firing decisions.

Federal law provides that if Sampson knew that he was causing DOJ officials to make inaccurate statements to Congress, he can be prosecuted for the federal crime of lying to Congress even though he did not personally make any statements to Congress. The Special Prosecutor should investigate not only Mr. Sampson’s conduct but whether anyone else was involved in formulating the incomplete and erroneous congressional testimony or whether the officials who testified were aware that they were providing imperfect information to Congress.