Chairman Conyers Writes to Attorney General Gonzales

March 15, 2007
Blog
From the Judiciary Committee:

Conyers Demands More Answers from Attorney General Gonzales

National Journal reports that Gonzales may have advised President Bush to shut down OPR inquiry on warrentless wiretapping

(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales demanding he answer allegations that he may have advised the President to shut down an Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) inquiry into the Administration's domestic wiretapping surveillance program because of his role in the program.

An article posted in today's online version of the National Journal alleges that Gonzales anticipated the inquiry would focus on his role in the wire-tapping project so he advised the President to end it by denying necessary security clearances to investigators.

"It would be an extraordinary abuse of authority if you advised the President on this matter after learning that your own conduct was to be investigated," Conyers wrote. "The decision by the President to shut down the OPR investigation by denying security clearances to key Department personnel was itself extremely unusual, controversial and, in our view, improper. But the issue of your role in advising the President on this question raises what may be even more serious concerns."

Conyers sent the letter this afternoon and advised the Attorney General to respond immediately to the letter and provide copies of any documents relating to his answers.

The letter is available at: http://judiciary.house.gov/Media/PDFS/110-DOJOPRshutdown070315.pdf

The letter comes as ABC News breaks the following story:

EXCLUSIVE: E-Mails Show Rove's Role in U.S. Attorney Firings

Jan Crawford Greenburg, ABC News - March 15, 2007

New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse while he was still White House counsel, weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.

Two independent sources in a position to know have described the contents of the e-mail exchange, which could be released as early as Friday. They put Rove at the epicenter of the imbroglio and raise questions about Gonzales' explanations of the matter.

UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. comments on the ABC News story:

These latest reports, if true, are proof positive that lower level officials in the Justice Department are being hung out to dry as the original source of this sordid plan to fire well-qualified and well-performing United States Attorneys. This goes all the way to the top of the Justice Department and to the most senior White House staff. They also raise extremely troubling questions about the truthfulness of testimony given to the United States Congress. In open, public hearings, the Justice Department testified that this plan did not originate in the White House. Not only was this untrue, but these reports appear to indicate that the Attorney General himself was involved in this plan while employed as the White House Counsel. The notion that the President's top political advisor was so deeply embroiled in this decision is the final nail in the coffin of the Administration's contention that this was done for performance related issues, and not politics of the lowest kind.

The White House and Justice Department owe us answers, not cover stories, and the patience of the Congress is running out.

Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, also comments:

"These emails, if the reports are accurate, are the clearest evidence that the Bush Administration has been lying to the public, the Congress, and perhaps even among its own ranks, about its scheme to purge federal prosecutors. This would be a deliberate attempt to place partisan ideology at the center of the justice system in a way not seen since the Watergate scandal.

"It is time for the Bush Administration to come clean. Who made the decision to fire these U.S. Attorneys, why did they do it, and who orchestrated the attempts to mislead the public on this issue?"