Yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, gave the Bush administration until noon today “to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony.”
Missing the noon deadline, the White House released a letter this afternoon from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, which stated “one particular aspect” of the NSA’s domestic spying program, “and nothing more, was publicly acknowledged by the President and described in December of 2005.” Gonzales was also supposed to provide a letter of clarification to Specter by noon, but it has not been sent.
On CNN’s The Situation Room this evening, Specter briefly responded to McConnell’s letter, saying “I am not prepared to say” Gonzales didn’t lie “until we get Attorney General Gonzales’ letter.” Watch it:
Host Wolf Blitzer asked Specter how he would respond to an unsatisfactory letter from Gonzales. “If you’re not satisfied with that letter, I assume your conclusion will be like other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did lie,” said Blitzer.
“Well, if he doesn’t have a plausible explanation then he hasn’t leveled with the Committee, that’s right,” responded Specter.
BLITZER: Did the attorney general lie?
SPECTER: He did not tell us the whole story when he denied being involved in the U.S. attorney replacements. He was contradicted by three of his top deputies and by documentary evidence, emails. When you come to a question of whether he leveled with the committee. When he said that there was no disagreement within the administration on the Terrorist Surveillance Program. That depends upon the interpretation of the letter, which the director of National Intelligence McConnell, was sent today to Sen. Leahy and me. And beyond that, on the interpretation of those facts by…
BLITZER: Well, let me refer to this letter because this is a very complex letter, and a lot of it, to average people will sound like gobbledegook, but you’ve been given secret briefings, classified information, which obviously you’re not going to reveal. But based on what you’ve been told, and this letter from the Director of National Intelligence, does this clarify on behalf of Alberto Gonzales that he didn’t lie?
SPECTER: I am not prepared to say until we get Attorney General Gonzales’ letter. I was promised this letter from Admiral McConnell and a letter from Attorney General Gonzales today at noon. This one came at mid-afternoon. And I’ve been asked not to comment about it until we have the Gonzales letter. But the Gonzales letter will, in effect, interpret this letter. I can’t comment on it though, Wolf, without getting into classified information. And that, of course, I will not do.
BLITZER: So at this point, you’re not ready to say he lied or didn’t?
SPECTER: That’s right. I’m only prepared to say that there is a question that has been raised by what is in Admiral McConnell’s letter. And Attorney General Gonzales is on the verge of providing the information — to atleast give his side.
BLITZER: And you’re saying he was supposed to give you that letter by noon, it still hasn’t arrived. If you’re not satisfied with that letter, I assume you’re conclusion will be like other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did lie.
SPECTER: Well, if he doesn’t have a plausible explanation then he hasn’t leveled with the Committee, that’s right.