Blogging the Gonzales Hearing

09:45 EDT
In his opening remarks, Senator Specter pretty much said it right out: Gonzales has this one chance to re-establish his credibility. If he doesn't, then he is finished.

"This is your opportunity Mr. Attorney General to meet a high burden of proof to re-establish your credibility." - Senator Specter

This is going to be so much fun. Gonzo has already started squinting. This is a slow, public execution.
09:51 EDT
"I believe you have come a long way from saying that this is an overblown personnel matter. This is as important a hearing that I can recall, short of a Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearing. This is more important than your own confirmation hearing." - Senator Specter
09:57 EDT
Alberto Gonzales is sworn-in. He is now reading his statement, parts of which were already released to the press and will soon appear on the Senate Judicial Committee website.
10:06 EDT
Leahy gets Gonzo to testify that Karl Rove and Senator Pete Domemici asked that US Attorney Iglesias be added to the termination list. Gonzales says that Iglesias' name was added to the list sometime between October 17th and November 15th 2006.

"Mr. Iglesias lost the confidence of Senator Domenici in the fall of 2005 when the senator called me and said that Mr. Iglesias was in over his head."
10:14 EDT
Leahy tags Specter. Specter now gets a chance to beat-up Gonzo. And he will.

"I prepare for all my hearings, senator."

"Do you prepare for all your press conferences?"

"Senator, I've already said, I misspoke."


10:27 EDT
Ted Kennedy takes-over. I am watching him, Leahy, Feinstein, Schumer, and Feingold very closely.
10:42 EDT
Gonzales is being asked by Senator Brownback to give a reason for termination, name by name.
10:57 EDT
Orrin Hatch provides comfort to Gonzales. This is a good opportunity to take a pee break.
11:05 EDT
Feinstein gets him and then we take a 15-minute break. Feinstein has 3 great questions:

1. Whose idea was it to amend the Patriot Act to give the AG the power to fire US Attorneys without Senate approval? Gonzo does not recall.

2. Who was the decider to terminate the US Attorneys effective December 7th 2005? Gonzo admits that he was the decider and he did it without looking at the performance reports.

3. Did anyone who was involved in the group firing ever look at the performance reports prior to building the termination list? Gonzo says he doesn't know.
11:10 EDT
Feinstein ends her questions by pinning-down Gonzales on the issue of Carol Lam. Lam was a rockstar. She was the best-known US Attorney besides Patrick Fitzgerald. She had glowing reviews. She took-down big offenders in organized crime, illegal gun sales, and immigration. Gonzales ties in vain to explain that despite her being a star attorney, the performance of her district still needed to be improved, and she had to be let go after four years.

Time for a 15-minute recess. This should resume shortly after 11:30.
11:35 EDT
Feingold is up. Gonzales tells him to look at the facts before drawing conclusions.

"This overall problem here has led to many unfortunate thoughts about the situation, whether they are true or not."
- Russ Feingold

He's being diplomatic and careful not to declare that the firings were politically-motivated.

Now he moves-on to ask Gonzales about what Kyle Sampson told him during the termination process (the creation of the list, keeping the White House informed, etc.). Gonzales does not recall in response to most of Feingold's questions. I think I just counted six "I do not recall."

"You really had no basis to tell the American people in your USA Today op-ed on March 7th that the fired US Attorneys had lost your confidence. ....That's inexcusable."
- Russ Feingold


I am being pulled to the other side of the river for a meeting. Well, I do have a day job, I guess. It's just so difficult to do it on a day like this. And the Red Sox play at 12:30! maybe I can resume blogging at 14:00.

Many many thanks to the new visitors who looked at my site today. I run a blog mainly for myself and my friends in New York and Boston. I seldom get more than 20 different visitors a day. If you want real take-downs of wingnuts, please visit or Those guys are my inspiration and they show how to really run a small blog with a sharp bite.
13:51 EDT
I'm back.

I guess I missed Chuck Schumer nailing Gonzo again. Apparently I did miss another breakthrough thanks to Senator Schumer. To quote from Janet on the comments page at Crooks & Liars:

"Schumer says that after this testimony the Reagan and Bush I WH would have a new AG. This WH doesn't care about anyone but themselves and that's the difference. WOW"

Hearing will resume at 14:30.
14:35 EDT
Senator Chuck Grassley has arrived and is now mildly grilling Gonzales. From his tone, it would seem that Grassley is not going to defend the AG. He wants to know who initiated the review of US Attorneys. Gonzales tells him it was his idea.
14:45 EDT
Senator Benjamin Cardin goes after Gonzales. C-SPAN3 reminds us that this is still the first round of questioning. We're going to be here well after 17:00. Good.

"Looking at all the information we now know, you still stand by your decision, that this was the right thing to do?"

"Do you disagree with the perception that is out there? [Gonzales: Yes] So what would stop you from doing it again?"
15:00 EDT
Senator Tom Coburn tells Gonzales that he should resign, because there should be consequences for his mistakes.

"It is my considered opinion that the same standards be applied to you in judging how this was handled."

Coburn says that the US attorneys were terminated due to what the AG described (to Brownback) as poor leadership and management skills. Coburn tells Gonzales that the same standard should be applied to him to determine his fate.

"The best way to put this behind us is your resignation."
15:10 EDT
Senator Shelly Whitehouse:
"I think you set the bar way low for yourself....if you hang a US Attorney once in a while just to discourage the others, you have to admit that it would be improper."

"It's more than a management issue. it's an issue about the structure through which justice is administered in this country."
15:15 EDT
Senator John Kyl filibusters and asks questions about Internet gambling for minutes...
15:22 EDT
Leahy takes the wheel. Whew.

He asks Gonzales which version of events the committee should focus on:

His February testimony to the Judicial Committee?
His March press conference?
His March op-ed in USA Today?
His written statement submitted to the committee this week?
His testimony to the Judicial Committee today?

That pretty much sums it up.
15:38 EDT
The Red Sox have defeated Toronto, 5-3.
The Yankees are now losing to Cleveland, 5-2.
The Red Sox host the Yankees tomorrow evening. It's going to be sweet.
15:39 EDT
Diane Feinstein is up. Specter just spent 7 minutes filibustering. Arlen is done, but we're not.

"I would like to know who selected those individuals on that [termination] list. Mr. Sampson testified he didn't."

"Mr. Sampson had been involved in filling senior leadership positions at the DOJ and so he had experience in making personnel decisions."

"How could you say three weeks ago that the White House played no role in adding or deleting names [on the list]?"

"I have a hard time with you telling me to this day that you don't know how top-ranked prosecutors were added to this list."

"If I were you, I'd want to know who selected [the names]."

She ends with the Carol Lam issue. Feinstein received a letter two months before Lam was fired stating that her performance had been satisfactory, and that Lam had no idea that her bosses in Washington were planning to fire her. The firing seemed 'out of the blue.' Well put, senator.
[Then Senaotor Whitehouse brings a chart and a topic that probably deserves its own separate post. It was that good.]
16:30 EDT

Schumer just dropped the biggest hammer you can drop. He asked Gonzo to get the hell out, now.

"I don't see any point in another round of questions."

"I urge you to re-examine your performance, and for the good of the department, and the good of the country, step down."

"...the burden is on you to give a full, complete and convincing explanation as to sir, in my view...when you fire people who have good evaluations...the burden of proof lays on the person..who took responsibility for the firing."
16:47 EDT
The Yankees have come back to win 8-6. It sucks. But now come to daddy.
Committee adjourned.
What will become of Gonzales? What is his fate? This won't end well, no matter how it goes down.

Charles Schumer:
"The bottom line is, it may not have been a knockout punch, but he took 20 steps backwards."

Gonzales' time is limited now. How long will he twist in the wind?