Senators Schumer, Feinstein, Feingold, Whitehouse Call On Solicitor General to Appoint Special Counsel to Investigate Potential Perjury by Attorney General
Gonzales' Testimony Earlier This Week Only Served to Reinforce the Notion that the Attorney General Has Misled Congress Senators: With the Justice Department Mired in Scandal for Months, Time Has Come for an Outside Special Counsel to Oversee an Independent Investigation
Washington, DC - Today, Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible wrongdoing by the Attorney General, originating with his statements regarding the removal and replacement of several United States Attorneys, in addition to his testimony before Congress regarding the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP.) In a letter to Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General responsible for matters where Attorney General Gonzales has recused himself, the senators called for a special counsel to be appointed to examine the Attorney General's statements on the U.S. Attorney scandal, his testimony before Congress regarding the TSP, and potential charges of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Gonzales testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in a Department of Justice Oversight hearing. During questioning by several members of the Committee, the Attorney General gave statements in conflict with his prior testimony before Congress. Previously, Gonzales had testified that there had not been any "serious disagreement" within the Administration regarding a domestic warrantless wiretapping program known as the TSP. That notion was sharply refuted in testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who recounted a disagreement so intense that it almost led to his resignation, as well as that of John Ashcroft, Attorney General at the time. In his testimony this week, Gonzales contradicted himself by admitting that there had in fact been a dispute between the White House-where he was Counsel at the time-and the Justice Department over the TSP.
Additionally, a number of the Attorney General's answers were in direct conflict with accounts from members of Congress and the Administration. Specifically, the Attorney General responded that TSP was not discussed at a March 10, 2004 briefing, despite a letter from John Negroponte, former Director of National Intelligence, indicating that the TSP was in fact the subject of that briefing. Testimony by CIA Director Michael Hayden also confirms that the TSP was discussed at the March 10 briefing.
"Once again, Attorney General Gonzales has proven himself unable to answer a few simple and straightforward questions," Schumer said. "He has now also given testimony that directly contradicts accounts by other Administration officials and members of Congress. The time has come for the Department of Justice to appoint an independent special counsel-someone in the mold of Patrick Fitzgerald-to clean up the mess that the Department of Justice has become under this Attorney General."
"It is with great sadness that we come here today to call for an independent special prosecutor to determine whether Attorney General Gonzales may have misled Congress or perjured himself in testimony before Congress," Feinstein said. "Americans look to their Attorney General to be above reproach, independent, and free from political influence. They want a straight shooter, who will enforce the law no matter what. But Alberto Gonzales has turned this office on its head."
"As the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the country, the Attorney General has a special duty to be truthful and fully forthcoming with Congress," Feingold said. In his testimony, the Attorney General has demonstrated a clear pattern of intentionally misleading Congress about Deputy Attorney General James Comey and internal disputes within the administration. A special counsel is needed to look into the litany of misleading statements the Attorney General has made and determine whether criminal charges are warranted."
"The Attorney General's testimony this week left me no choice but to believe that the Senate, and the American people, were being misled about a matter of grave importance to our national security," Whitehouse said. "For the Bush administration to continue to assert that it is above the law is simply unacceptable. We're calling for a special counsel because we need an independent, impartial investigation to determine exactly what's happened here, and to ensure accountability."
In this particular situation, where wrongdoing may have occurred at the highest echelons of the Department's management, an outside special counsel is particularly important to ensure an independent and even-handed investigation.
In 2003, Senator Schumer was the first person to call for a special counsel to be appointed in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. As a direct consequence, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed Special Prosecutor, ultimately resulting in the indictment and conviction of former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
For a copy of the signed letter please contact the Whitehouse Press Office at (202) 228-6293.
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