Leahy: The president said 'Heckuva job' Gonzales
Senator Patrick Leahy, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, slammed President George W. Bush's expression of confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at a subpoena hearing today and compared the move to the President's endorsement of former FEMA head Michael Brown.
"Two days ago the President told us that his full confidence in his friend increased during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. If the Attorney Generalís hearing performance increased the Presidentís confidence in his ability to lead the Justice Department, then the President has set a low bar, indeed," the Vermont Democrat said in his opening remarks.
He added, "The statements coming out of the White House on this matter seem disconnected to reality. It is reminiscent of the Presidentís 'heckuva job' assessment of the head of FEMA who failed to prepare for Hurricane Katrina and then failed in our recovery efforts. And, again, the White House wants to turns the page and move on. Just as they have left so many displaced residents of New Orleans without the relief they needed then ó and that many still need ó this White House is ready to leave federal law enforcement in shambles."
Leahy made the statement at a hearing seeking to authorize the issuing of a subpoena to Sara Taylor, the top aide to White House Adviser Karl Rove who was implicated by former Justice Department Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson in the firing of eight US Attorneys by the Bush administration.
"Ms. Taylor is the operative who headed the White House political operation at the time that office signed off on the plan for the firings," Leahy said. News reports last month indicated that Taylor was set to resign from the White House soon.
Leahy made strong allegations against Taylor and her colleagues in the White House.
"The White House political operatives who helped spearhead this plan...are happy to reduce United States Attorneys offices to another political arm of the Administration," he said in his opening statement.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking minority member on the Committee, was wary of issuing a subpoena for Taylor.
"When you issue a subpoena there is a suggestion that the person has something to hide, if they are not coming in voluntarily. And so many people make the inference that beyond something to hide there may be a serious issue of guilt. And I just donít like to go down that road if it can be avoided. Thatís why I think we ought to make a reasonable effort to get people to come in on a voluntary basis," he said.
Specter thought the voluntary approach would work.
"I think she will respond and I think she will come in on a voluntary basis," Specter said to reporters, in a transcript sent by his office to RAW STORY.
The Associated Press also reported today that the House Judiciary Committee had voted 32-6 to grant Monica Goodling, former Justice Department Liaison to the White House, immunity from prosecution for her testimony before the committee.
Goodling's lawyer had indicated that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refuse to testify, which the Judiciary Committee found questionable. But Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the House Committee's Chairman, backed off from that original claim and said that limited immunity was required, as Goodline might have reason to believe she would incriminate herself.
"So Ms. Goodling appears to be a key witness for us, as to any possible undue or improper interference, and as to any internal discussions as to how forthcoming to be to Congress," Conyers said in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "I don't think at this point that all of her potential grounds for invoking the privilege can be dismissed out of hand."