As Chuck Schumer predicted , today is proving to be a big one for the investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, as the former chief-of-staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The former top aide, Kyle Sampson told the committee that Gonzales offered inaccurate testimony to Congress when he claimed not to have had a role in the discussion about firing the attorneys. He also said Gonzales was wrong when he said that inaccurate testimony offered by other senior Justice Department officials was a result of them not being sufficiently briefed about the terminations.
”I shared information with anyone who wanted it,” Sampson said. When Schumer pushed Sampson as to whether that rendered Gonzales’ statement false, Sampson said, ”I don’t think it’s accurate if the statement implies that I intended to mislead the Congress.”
In an interview on with the Observer on Tuesday, Schumer dismissed Sampson as a “longtime Republican Apparatchik.”
Schumer and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are making the case that the White House’s political interference in the decision to fire the attorneys was at the least highly improper, and might have potentially resulted in a crime of obstruction of justice if cases were influenced for political reasons.
Sampson today said that the more serious charge was false. ”To my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here,” but said that it was naïve to assume that politics had no role in the decision of whether or not to remove the attorneys.
”The distinction between ‘political’ and ‘performance-related’ reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial,” Sampson said.
Today, members of the committee bristled at that widely accepted characterization, but on Tuesday Schumer seemed to accept it to a degree.
“Here is the bottom line, every justice department has politics in it,” said Schumer on Tuesday, before adding. “This is the first justice department that puts politics first and rule of law second.”
When asked about the chances of high ranking administration officials such as Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, (for whom subpoenas have been authorized, but not issued) testifying about the scandal, Schumer said “it depends how many more shoes drop.”
— Jason Horowitz