Should Alberto Gonzales be fired?
Amid a growing furor after the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys last December, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went before reporters yesterday (March 13th) and admitted his department mishandled the dismissals. But while accepting responsibility for that, he stood by the decision to fire the eight, saying it was appropriate: ["I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility. And my pledge to the American people is to find out what went wrong here, to assess accountability, and to make improvements so that the mistakes that occurred in this instance do not occur again in the future."] SOUNDCUE (:19 OC: . . . in the future.)
Democrats have charged that the dismissals were politically motivated, with some of the attorneys saying they felt pressured by top Republicans in their states to rush investigations of potential voter fraud involving Democrats. Justice Department officials, including Gonzales, went before Congress and said under oath that the decision was made solely by the Justice Department and was based on performance, not politics. However, emails were released yesterday (March 13th) between Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, and then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, that showed the firings were discussed for two years by officials in both the White House and Justice Department.
In the wake of the emails being released, Sampson resigned his position Monday.
Gonzales said yesterday that he was unhappy that incorrect information was given to Congress: ["I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress that it's accurate and that it is complete, and I'm very dismayed that that may not have occurred here."] SOUNDCUE (:10 OC: . . . have occurred here.) He said Sampson didn't tell other Justice Department officials about the extent of his discussions with the White House, and that's why incomplete information was given to Congress. Gonzales said he was among those who wasn't given all the details, and explained that Sampson had resigned effective immediately as a result of the miscommunication.
There were also major newspaper reports yesterday that the White House had suggested two years ago that all 93 of the nation's U.S. attorneys be fired, but the idea was rejected as being too disruptive. And the Washington Post and New York Times cited a White House spokesperson as saying the eight attorneys were fired after President Bush spoke to Gonzales about complaints that some of them were not energetically pursuing voter fraud investigations.
Hillary Clinton knows all about sacking U.S. Attorneys
As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton's choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno--or Mr. Hubbell--gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.
At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: "All those people are routinely replaced," he told reporters, "and I have not done anything differently." In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.
Equally extraordinary were the politics at play in the firings. At the time, Jay Stephens, then U.S. Attorney in Chicago, was investigating then Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, and was "within 30 days" of making a decision on an indictment. Mr. Rostenkowski, who was shepherding the Clinton's economic program through Congress, eventually went to jail on mail fraud charges and was later pardoned by Mr. Clinton.
Five TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and FNC) interviewed Alberto Gonzales yesterday, asking a total of 42 questions, and not one mentioned Bill Clinton’s firing of 93 attorneys in 1993 – though they asked 10 times if he would resign