More questions for Gonzales

And another Republican senator suggests that it may be time for the attorney general to go.

Published May 17, 2007 1:37PM (EDT)

Add Pat Roberts to the list of Republican senators saying that Alberto Gonzales ought to think about stepping down. Roberts tells the Associated Press that "when you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about" quitting.

As we noted Wednesday, it's not clear that Gonzales will be spending too much more time on Capitol Hill; at least one senator says that, given the attorney general's evasive answers in previous performances, there may not be much point in asking him to testify again. But that doesn't mean there aren't questions to be answered, and the list of them just keeps getting longer. Among the latest:

How do we square James Comey's testimony about a hospital-room showdown over the reauthorization of a classified surveillance program with Gonzales' testimony last year that there "has not been any serious disagreement" about the warrantless wiretapping program "the president has confirmed"? Was Comey speaking about something other than the warrantless wiretapping program? Was Gonzales speaking narrowly about the program as it was, apparently, revised after the showdown? Or was Gonzales simply lying to the Senate? In response to a letter of inquiry from four Democratic senators, the Justice Department said Wednesday that it will not retract the attorney general's testimony.

How many U.S. attorneys were fired last year? Last week, the list of eight became a list of nine. Is it now at 10? McClatchy Newspapers is reporting that "a U.S. attorney in Minnesota, who disagreed with the Justice Department on a case involving voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year." As Josh Marshall notes, Minnesota has only one U.S. attorney at a time, and it was Thomas Heffelfinger until he was replaced last year by Rachel Paulose, a young and relatively inexperienced attorney who happened to be pals with Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison and soon-to-be immunized witness before the House Judiciary Committee.

How many U.S. attorneys were going to be fired? According to the Washington Post, lists compiled by former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson and other officials show that the Justice Department considered canning at least 26 U.S. attorneys last year, or one out of every four of those serving. The Post explains: "The number of names on the lists demonstrates the breadth of the search for prosecutors to dismiss. The names also hint at a casual process in which the people who were most consistently considered for replacement were not always those ultimately told to leave." The Justice Department's rejoinder: "Whether they are on any list or not, U.S. attorneys currently serving enjoy the full confidence and support of the attorney general and Department of Justice."

How many U.S. attorneys were fired -- or slated for firing -- because they wouldn't prosecute trumped-up voting fraud cases? As McClatchy reports today, documents and testimony show that the administration "set out to replace" U.S. attorneys in nine "battleground election states," and in at least seven of those states Republicans were, at the time, urging "investigations or prosecutions of alleged Democratic voter fraud."

By Tim Grieve

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

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Department Of Justice Pat Roberts R-kan.