In his Washington Post op-ed yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that “nothing improper occurred” when eight U.S. Attorneys were forced to resign last year. “I know that I did not — and would not — ask for the resignation of any U.S. attorney for an improper reason,” wrote Gonzales. “Furthermore, I have no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. attorney for an improper reason.”
The assertion that there was “nothing improper” in the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys has been a constant refrain from Gonzales and his supporters, even as evidence continues to mount that contradicts their public statements. Here are a few examples:
the goal is to show Congress and the American people that “the department did not remove the U.S. attorneys for improper reasons.” [Justice Department Spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos 3/20/07]
“No United States Attorney was fired for improper reasons.” [Alberto Gonzales 3/22/07]
“There was nothing improper about the decision here.” [Alberto Gonzales 3/23/07]
“I asked for their resignation not for improper reasons.” [Alberto Gonzales 3/26/07]
“Nor, to my knowledge, was any U.S. attorney asked to resign for an improper reason.” [Former Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Kyle Sampson 3/29/07]
Appearing on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dismissed the claims in Gonzales’ op-ed. “Those statements are very conclusory,” Specter said. “He’s got a steep hill to climb. He’s going to be successful only if he deals with the facts.” Watch it:
The facts show considerable evidence of “improper” motivations behind the firings.
Just yesterday, the Albuquerque Journal reported that former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias “was fired after Sen. Pete Domenici, who had been unhappy with Iglesias for some time, made a personal appeal to the White House.” The main gripe with Iglesias was that he had refused to give in to Domenici’s pressure and bring indictments against Democrats before the 2006 mid-term elections.
Furthermore, just one day after former San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam widened her probe into a Republican bribery scandal, Gonzales’ former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson warned the White House of “the real problem” they had with her. He then suggested that they should start looking for her replacement.
Sen. Specter is right. Gonzales is going to have a hard time selling his “nothing improper” story unless he produces facts that support his claims. Otherwise, when Gonzales testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow, his statements should be read with the utmost skepticism.