"Echoing Gonzales, Taylor’s Testimony Rife With ‘I Don’t Know’ And ‘I Don’t Recall’"
This morning, former White House political director Sara Taylor appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about her involvement in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year. Due to the President’s assertion of executive privilege, Taylor was blocked from speaking about internal White House deliberations over the firing, and could only “respond to other questions from senators that do not breach White House confidentiality.”
Yet even under these restrictions, Taylor repeatedly avoided answering questions by claiming a faulty memory.
When Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) asked Taylor if she and Rove ever had a conversation about whether to remove a Wisconsin U.S. attorney, she answered, “I don’t know.” When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked what criteria was used to remove U.S. attorneys, she said, “I don’t know the answer to that.” When Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked her to “describe” a political briefing she “gave at the Environmental Protection Agency”, Taylor responded, “I don’t recall that briefing.”
ThinkProgress created a compilation of Taylor’s many “I don’t recall” moments. Watch it:
In her testimony, Taylor is demonstrating a memory worthy of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who “uttered the phrase ‘I don’t recall’ and its variants (‘I have no recollection,’ ‘I have no memory’) 64 times” while testifying before Congress about the attorney scandal. She has joined the long list of administration officials with supposedly faulty memories when called to testify about their actions in office.
In March, Gonzales’s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, said “I don’t remember” 122 times when asked about the scandal. When Government Services Administration chief Lurita Doan testified about possible illegal behavior under her watch, the only thing she could remember about her tenure was that “there were cookies on the table” at one of her meetings. DoJ official Bradley Schlozman nearly broke Gonzales’ “record of saying ‘I don’t recall.'”
Unfortunately, the spate of amnesia that has taken hold over Bush administration appointees has elicited more questions about the U.S. attorney scandal than it has resolved.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): How do you account for Mr. McNulty — how do you account for Mr. McNulty having a different conclusion — if you can account for — that Mr. Cummins was removed or asked to resign to make room for Mr. Griffin?
SARA TAYLOR: Again, it’s — I don’t know all the conversations that took place with Mr. Cummins. And I don’t know, sort of, the entire timeline.
SEN. HERB KOHL (D-WI): Did you or Karl Rove ever request that Department of Justice officials remove Mr. Biskupic from his position as a U.S. attorney?
TAYLOR: I don’t know.
KOHL: Did you or Karl Rove ever discuss Mr. Biskupic’s performance with Kyle Sampson or other Department of Justice officials?
TAYLOR: I did not ever discuss it that I ever remember. I don’t recall. I don’t believe I did.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): You decline to answer. TAYLOR: Yes.
Where did the plan to remove and replace several U.S. attorneys originate?
TAYLOR: Again, I have to — the president…
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
What was the basis for deciding which U.S. attorneys to fire? What criteria were used with which ones to let go?
TAYLOR: I don’t know the answer to that.
FEINSTEIN: What was your role? Did you add or remove names?
TAYLOR: I don’t recall ever doing so.
FEINSTEIN: All I’m asking is if you saw the plan. The answer’s yes or no.
TAYLOR: I did not see it. I don’t recall seeing it.
FEINSTEIN: Were you aware that U.S. attorneys were going to be called on December 7th, asked to summarily resign?
TAYLOR: I — again, under the president’s assertion of executive privilege, I decline answering.
FEINSTEIN: So you won’t say whether you knew or didn’t know?
TAYLOR: Is that a fact-based question?
TAYLOR: On advice of my counsel, I had heard that there would be some U.S. attorneys replaced. I don’t recall knowing that that was the date that they were being replaced on.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): SCHUMER: Well, how about complaints about U.S. attorneys?
TAYLOR: I suspect there were phone calls made to me at times complaining about them. I don’t recall any specific phone calls.
You don’t recall any specific phone calls?
TAYLOR: I don’t recall any specific phone calls.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Let me ask you if I can, I find it interesting that when you responded to Senator Kohl about Mr. Biskupic that you were fairly specific about conversations within the White House and whether certain people said certain things.
So do you believe that it is only in relation to the Cummins- Griffin appointment that you are governed by this executive privilege letter?
TAYLOR: I don’t recall — it’s — you know, again, I didn’t have any knowledge of that situation or recall any knowledge of that situation, and I answered it and perhaps I — perhaps you’re correct and that did fall under the president’s assertion of executive privilege and I should have said nothing.
DURBIN: All right. Thank you.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): The Washington Post reported that you gave a briefing at the Environmental Protection Agency. Can you describe for us what the substance of that briefing was that you gave at the Environmental Protection Agency?
TAYLOR: I don’t recall that briefing.