Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Speedy Gonzales Zips Around Congress

Update: The psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, ever-changing world of 'Berto's DOJ: Since yesterday's testimony, all the news agencies have set about trying to confirm 'Berto's surprise testimony that the spying program he tripped himself up testifying about once before was, really, as he testified yesterday, a program not heretofore disclosed, so, er ~ he wasn't technically lying to Congress the 1st time.
Everybody finds that, um, he was. At least the Congresspeople he claims were briefed about it say it was the Terrorist Surveillance Program 1st reported by the New York Times that they were briefed upon, not the unnamed "other program" he said he couldn't talk about. Still, through a spokesman, 'Berto, like his boss, stays the course when confronted. And, we dare speculate, will be able to rely on the boss's exertion of executive privilege if Congress has the chuztpah to try to get to the bottom of it.
'Berto, appearing before Congress today, finally got the castigating tongue-lashing from Leahy, Specter, & others we've all been righteously hoping for ~ & had the sense to keep the shitty smirk off his face this time, but all else seems to remain fundamentally unchanged ~ that is to say, stonewalling, when it doesn't suit his agenda to testify.

But he did come up with a few surprises nonetheless, as a result of others' testimonies. For instance, he did suddenly remember the meeting with Monica Goodling in his office, wherein, as she said, he told her what his recollection of events surrounding the dismissed attorneys general was (*in advance*), & he also defended his visit (in his capacity as WH counsel) to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bedside, again, the direct result of James Comey's testimony.

And in that case, he reassured a worried nation, everything he had previously said about there being no concerns about the legality of the spying programs they sought to get a gravely ill & heavily sedated man to approve was true, because (*here's the bombshell*) he wasn't talking about the spying program the NYT unearthed, but another one ~ moreover, the "gang of eight" Congresspersons who sit on the exclusive little committee that Bushco will actually deign to brief on such sensitive matters of national security all agreed that would continue, with the inference that it was legal. But at least one of the Committee members begs to disagree:
"...Gonzales reiterated today that the dispute was not about the program that Bush described [the program 1st reported by the NYT] . Gonzales also said he misspoke during a news conference in June, when he said it was the same program.
"Gonzales said an emergency meeting was held on the afternoon of March 10, 2004, with the so-called "Gang of Eight," which consists of the bipartisan leadership of the House, Senate and both intelligence committees. Gonzales said congressional leaders agreed that the intelligence activity should continue, and he and Card traveled to George Washington University Hospital that evening to visit Ashcroft, who was recovering from gall bladder surgery.
"'Mr. Comey had informed us that he had not approved continuation of a very important intelligence activity, despite the fact that the department had approved that activity over the course of two years,' Gonzales said. 'The consensus in the room was that we should continue the activities, at least for now. . . . We felt it was important that he knew of the opinion of the leadership.' Gonzales acknowledged that, as Comey testified, Ashcroft declined to overrule Comey.
"Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who at the time was ranking member of the Senate Intelligence committee, said there was no consensus among the 'Gang of 8' about the legality of the program, nor were the congressional leaders ever expected to give their approval to the program.
'"He once again is making something up to protect himself,' Rockefeller, now committee chairman, said of Gonzales."
Elsewhere in the hearing, to charges that the Department of Justice is dysfunctional & paralyzed under his command, "He disputed charges that morale in the Justice Department has plummeted under his leadership, saying that morale can best be measured by 'output.' The department's output in the last six months has been 'outstanding,' he asserted.
"I've decided to stay and fix the problems," he said in response to a question.
Despite "...withering criticism from the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and from its top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.)":
"'The attorney general has lost the confidence of the Congress and the American people,' Leahy said. He said the administration 'has squandered our trust' and told Gonzales bluntly, 'I don't trust you.' Specter said there was 'evidence of low morale' at the Justice Department and blasted what he described as Gonzales's lack of 'personal credibility.' He called the department 'dysfunctional.'
More to the point, "Specter raised the prospect of calling for a special prosecutor to press a potential contempt-of-Congress citation over the White House's refusal to provide certain documents and sworn testimony regarding the firing of nine federal prosecutors last year. He denounced the Bush administration's stand that it would prohibit the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from pursuing a contempt citation.
'"Now if that forecloses a determination of whether executive privilege has been properly imposed, then the president in that manner can stymie congressional oversight by simply saying there is executive privilege,' Specter said. That would spell the end of congressional oversight and take the controversy 'to a really incredible level,' he said.
"'Now we've been exploring some alternatives,' Specter said, noting that "the attorney general has the authority to appoint a special prosecutor.' He told Gonzales, "You're recused, but somebody else could do it.'
"Specter added, 'We also have the alternative of convening the Senate and having a contempt citation and trying it in the Senate.'

"Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee announced that it will press toward a constitutional showdown with the Bush administration over the U.S. attorney firings scandal.

"Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee, said it will vote on Wednesday on contempt citations for the White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. Both refused congressional demands for information on the dismissals after President Bush invoked executive privilege.
"The move puts House Democrats on a legal collision course with the White House, which said last week that it will not allow the Justice Department to prosecute executive branch officials for being in contempt of Congress.
"Gonzales's promise to remain in office comes as many Justice Department employees say they are dispirited and have little confidence in their politically wounded leader.
"Most members of Gonzales's senior staff have resigned or are on the way out. Several outside candidates turned down chances to be considered for the job of his deputy, and more than a half-dozen other top positions remain filled by temporary appointees. Some of the department's key legislative priorities -- including intelligence law revisions and anti-crime proposals -- also have bogged down because of the fight with Democrats over the prosecutor firings...'It obviously has a serious impact,' said [a] former official, who would discuss the department's internal workings only if not identified.
"Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, have said that Gonzales should resign..."
For more on the lengthy hearing today, see WaPo commentary by Dana Milbank: "With Senate & Gonzales, Familiarity Breeds Contempt," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/24/AR2007072402028.html



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