The last thing thatÂ nervous Republicans on Capitol Hill wanted was more surprises in the U.S. Attorney scandal. However new documents released on Friday directly contradict Attorney General Gonzalesâ€™s March 13 statements that he was not directly involved with the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys last December. The documents reveal a November 27, 2006 meeting during which Gonzales and five top Justice Department officials came up with a five step plan to carry out the firing of the attorneys. The plan was designed by former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson and signed off on by the Attorney General himself. The documents indicate that this one meeting was the only time Gonzales met with top aides to talk about which attorneys to fire and how it should be done.
On March 13, Gonzales tried to explain away the firings by saying that he knew that firings were being discussed, but he was not involved in the discussion. At that time Gonzales said, “I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who the weak performers were, where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that’s what I knew,” Gonzales said last week. “But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That’s basically what I knew as the attorney general.”
The Attorney General also said, “I accept responsibility for everything that happens here within this department. But when you have 110,000 people working in the department, obviously there are going to be decisions that I’m not aware of in real time. Many decisions are delegated.” The latest documents were released shortly after Kyle Sampson agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee thisÂ Thursday about the attorney firings. Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse appeared to be trying to pass the buck for these firings to Sampson. “The attorney general has made clear that he charged Mr. Sampson with directing a plan to replace U.S. attorneys where for one reason or another the department believed that we could do better,” Roehrkasse said. “He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced.”
This was a far from satisfactory answer for Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who said, “If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as Attorney General.” It seems that Gonzales is going to try his best toÂ lay the rap on Sampson for this, but that doesnâ€™t wash in my book. Gonzales is the head of the Justice Department. If he wasnâ€™t involved in high level staffing decisions, then what kind of boss would he be? It is looking more and more like Gonzales had to have been involved with what was going on. This scandal is going to keep getting uglier each day until the White House does the right thing, andÂ dumps Alberto Gonzales.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics
Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverseÂ Â