It wasn't me

Who decided to fire the prosecutors? Bush and Gonzales say they don't think they did.

Published April 16, 2007 1:31PM (EDT)

What's that line? Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan?

When Kyle Sampson, the recently departed chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, he said that "the decision-makers" in firing a slew of U.S. attorneys last year were "the attorney general and the counsel to the president." That would be Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers, respectively, but neither Gonzales nor Miers is exactly owning up to anything just yet.

As Michael Scherer reported in this space Sunday, Gonzales will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday: "To my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign."

Miers? Well, we don't know what she would tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about her role in the firings because so far the White House is refusing to allow her to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Decider? He says he didn't decide this time. Speaking at a press conference in Mexico last month, George W. Bush said: "I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate and senators were talking about the U.S. attorneys. I don't remember specific names being mentioned, but I did say to Al last year -- you're right, last fall -- I said, have you heard complaints about AGs, I have -- I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me -- and he said, I have. But I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions."

The vice president? He says he knew nothing. Responding to a question about the prosecutor purge on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Dick Cheney said: "Well, as vice president, I don't know anything about the particular problem you're talking about. I mean, it took place inside the Justice Department."

Inside the Justice Department? Sampson says it was Gonzales and Miers. Monica Goodling, whose name is on many of the e-mail messages about the firings, isn't saying anything: She has refused to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, and resigned from her job at the Justice Department. And as the Wall Street Journal reports today, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is "quietly testing the waters for another job."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Department Of Justice Dick Cheney George W. Bush War Room