Monday, April 16, 2007

Gonzales' Story Breaking Down On Eve Of Testimony

The former Justice Department official who carried out the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year told Congress that several of the prosecutors had no performance problems and that a memo on the firings was distributed at a Nov. 27 meeting attended by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, a Democratic senator said yesterday.

The statements to House and Senate investigators by Michael A. Battle, former director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, represent another potential challenge to the credibility of Gonzales, who has said that he never saw any documents about the firings and that he had "lost confidence" in the prosecutors because of performance problems. ...

Schumer said Battle also contradicted Gonzales's assertion at a March 13 news conference that he had not seen any documents or participated in any discussions about the firings. A memo related to the dismissals was passed out at a Nov. 27 meeting attended by Gonzales and others, Battle told investigators.

When Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales faces angry Senate Democrats on Tuesday, he will acknowledge that he made a range of mistakes in the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys last year and will apologize to them and their families, but he will insist that even though the White House was originally behind the terminations, none of the prosecutors were fired for political reasons.

In what has been described as a make-or-break appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the nation's top federal law enforcement officer will say:

"I know that I did not, and would not, ask for a resignation of any individual in order to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain. I also have no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. attorney for an improper reason."

He also will tell the committee, "I firmly believe that these dismissals were appropriate."

In an unusual move, the Justice Department released Gonzales' testimony Sunday, two days before the hearing.

You can preview Gonzales' entire testimony here.

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