Today, in a performance that seems largely a repeat of his Senate appearance, Alberto Gonzales had his say in front of the House Judiciary Committee. It’s hard to see how this appearance could set aside concerns about his leadership; more likely, it will fuel further demands for his resignation and the appointment of an independent prosecutor.
As Gonzales was testifying, the National Journal’s Murray Waas published another bombshell article further establishing the increasingly obvious: that Gonzales’s prevarications serve a settled end—shielding Karl Rove from criminal inquiry.
The Bush Administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove’s role in supporting Griffin.
In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post. A month later, the Justice Department apologized in writing to the Senate Democrats for the earlier letter, saying it had been inaccurate in denying that Rove had played a role.
Even more bad news for Gonzales comes from the fact that while he claims innumerable convenient memory lapses about these dealings, he in fact reviewed all these withheld emails and related documents in preparing for his testimony.
The senior official said that Gonzales, in preparing for testimony before Congress, has personally reviewed the withheld records and has a responsibility to make public any information he has about efforts by his former chief of staff, other department aides, and White House officials to conceal Rove’s role.
“If [Gonzales] didn’t know everything that was going on when it went down, that is one thing,” this official said. “But he knows and understands chapter and verse. If there was an effort within Justice and the White House to mislead Congress, it is his duty to disclose that to Congress. As the country’s chief law enforcement official, he has a higher duty to disclose than to protect himself or the administration.”
The decision to withhold these documents came from Gonzales. Gonzales is lying about them. The decision to continue to withhold the documents is designed to protect Gonzales from the disclosure of still more false statements made to Congress.