The Attorney General and his kernel of truth

Gonzales gives the Judiciary Committee a headache.


Published July 24, 2007 10:38PM (EDT)

Following up on Julia Dahl's outtakes of the Gonzales hearing below, it appears that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed the existence of yet another domestic spying operation today in his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Either that or he lied to the committee when he claimed that his visit to the sedated Ashcroft's hospital bed wasn't regarding the domestic spying operation but rather to discuss some other "intelligence related activities."

Think Progress reports:

Today's testimony contradicts what Gonzales had said previously. In June, Gonzales claimed that both he and Comey were referring to the same domestic spying program. 'Mr. Comey's testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago,' he said.

If Gonzales' testimony is accurate today, then he is confirming the existence of a new administration spying program."

Even Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., agreed that James Comey's testimony was about the "highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago", although Comey didn't explicitly confirm it. Specter was visibly unhappy with Gonzales' change of story and even suggested that it might be time for a special prosecutor. A clearly exasperated Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., indicated that he believed Gonzales might be offering some sort of convoluted explanation that contained a "kernel of truth," but which was nonetheless misleading.

But Whitehouse (who has turned out to be a huge asset to the committee) didn't stop there. He revealed what should be a very big story. Marcy Wheeler from The Next Hurrah has it:

Remember back when Senator Whitehouse demonstrated how many more channels there were for people in the White House to interfere in ongoing investigations? Well, he's back at it today. And he revealed that not only is the structure that John Ashcroft set up still in place (which opened the floodgates to the White House), but he revealed that in a memo written by Gonzales, he further opened those floodgates to the Vice President as well."

Whitehouse: What on earth business does the OVP have [with respect to] ongoing investigations at DOJ?

AGAG: Good question.

Whitehouse: Why is it here then. I'd like to know how that addition was made. Once again, final paragraph, set off by asterisks, that undermines everything set out in previous paragraphs. President, VP, then you add their Chiefs of Staff, Counsel to the President, or Vice President. Somebody took the trouble to write in Counsel to VP and give them access to ongoing investigations.

AGAG: I don't know if that has happened.

Whitehouse: Part of what we try to do is prevent things from happening. Let me continue, what was staff of President has become staff of White House office and entire staff of OMB has been thrown in. So you come here today with, I think, highly diminished credibility, asserting you want to restore the DOJ, and yet, here, where there is something you could do about it, since our past discussion, nothing has been done. The memo that has your signature makes it worse. And we agree that this connection between WH and DOJ is the most troubling one for improper influence. How can we take you seriously about your promises about cleaning up the mess you've made?

As Wheeler points out in her post, that means that Cheney and his staff have had access to "ongoing investigations, for himself, his Chief of Staff, and his Counsel, courtesy of AGAG. David Addington, the architect of the Unitary Executive, now gets to know what DOJ is doing with ongoing investigations."


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