Alberto Gonzales on the slippery slope

Gonzales says he was right to make the decisions that he said he didn't make.

Published April 19, 2007 2:11PM (EDT)

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking at a March 13 press conference: "And so far as I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers ... 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."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking in a March 26 interview with NBC News: "Let me try to be more precise about my involvement. When I said on March 13th that I wasn't involved, what I meant was that I -- I had not been involved, was not involved in the deliberations over whether or not United States attorneys should resign. I wasn't involved in the deliberations as to whether or not a particular United States attorney should or should not be asked to resign."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testifying under oath today before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "Recognizing my limited involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions. I have reviewed the documents available to the Congress. And I have asked the deputy attorney general and others in the department if I should reconsider. What I have concluded is that although the process was nowhere near as rigorous or structured as it should have been, and while reasonable people might decide things differently, my decision to ask for the resignations of these U.S. attorneys is justified and should stand."

In an extraordinarily testy exchange between a Republican senator and a Republican attorney general, Sen. Arlen Specter just pressed Gonzales hard on why he said what he said on March 13. "Do you prepare for your press conference," Specter asked snidely. "I've already conceded that I misspoke," Gonzales responded. "There was nothing intentional. And the truth of the matter is ..." Specter cut him off, told Gonzales he wasn't going to "win a debate" about his level of preparation for the March 13th press conference, then said, "Let's move on."

By Tim Grieve

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

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