I didn't get to watch even a part of Gonzales' testimony on Capitol Hill today, but I gather I didn't miss much. He still has no idea who decided to fire the U.S. attorneys in the agency he supposedly runs, and he still has problems making claims that turn out to be misleading.
For instance, he claimed that top Congressional leaders were fully briefed on the warrantless eavesdropping program and urged the administration to continue it. Five lawmakers who attended the briefing disputed his claim. One of them, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said: "He once again is making something up to protect himself." Another, former Sen. Tom Daschle, said "this appears to be another attempt to rewrite history."
Senators, who gave Gonzales some deference during his last appearance, simply were not in a forgiving mood, with many of them telling him pointblank that he should resign.
"I do not find your testimony credible, candidly," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who became visibly angry at several points during his exchanges with Gonzales. "The committee's going to review your testimony very carefully to see if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable."
Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) told Gonzales bluntly: "I don't trust you."
Specter also suggested that Gonzales might need to appoint a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of the prosecutor firings. The fact that a Republican would suggest such a thing is a sign of how deep the mistrust of Gonzales runs.
And in this exchange, Gonzales appears to admit he misled Congress.
"It's hard to see anything but a pattern of intentionally misleading Congress again and again," Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., told Gonzales during the often-bitter Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "Shouldn't the attorney general of the United States meet a higher standard?"
"Obviously, there have been instances where I have not met that standard, and I've tried to correct that," Gonzales answered.
Senators took turns raking him over the coals. Specter, again, had the most devastating things to say about Gonzales' misleading 2006 testimony about the eavesdropping program.
Specter said that it was obvious that, as Gonzales initially confirmed last month, Comey was testifying about the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- meaning that Gonzales was not only lying to the Senate in his 2006 testimony, but lying today about "other intelligence activities" to cover up the lie. His advice to Gonzales was "to review your testimony carefully" and that the committee should see "if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable."
If you follow the link immediately above, you'll see that Gonzales maintains he told the truth back then, about there not being "significant" disagreement about the eavesdropping program "as confirmed" by the president. But that's only because the disagreement preceded modifications that led to the "confirmed" version of the program.
In that May 2007 post, I concluded the testimony wasn't particularly relevant, because he didn't actually lie and it's not that important whether there was disagreement or not. Further, he was already in so much hot water that it was hard for it to get any hotter. Turns out I might have been wrong: Congress doesn't like to be misled for any reason, artfully worded or not. Many senators simply believe he lied, or at least deliberately misled, and are focusing much of their anger on that.
At the end of the day, the senators made it very plain that they have lost all confidence in Gonzales. The question now is whether that makes any difference. Answer: probably not. But it means the Justice Department will limp along for the rest of Bush's term, with a discredited Attorney General who has lost nearly all of his senior staff to resignations and who is having difficulty finding replacements.
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 — have also bogged down because of the fight with Democrats over the prosecutor firings.
And it's only going to get worse.
Gonzales, politics, midtopia