Senators request more Justice files

Letter to Gonzales seeks further documents on fired U.S. attorneys, threatens subpoenas

April 10, 2007|By Richard A. Serrano | Richard A. Serrano,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, believing there is more to learn about the firings of eight federal prosecutors last year, formally asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday to turn over additional documents concerning the terminations and threatened to issue subpoenas if the materials are not forthcoming.

Specifically, the four senators want the internal rankings of all 93 U.S. attorneys that were made by the Justice Department over the years, as well as employment charts that Monica M. Goodling, a top aide to Gonzales, provided for top department officials as they decided which prosecutors to fire.

They also are seeking the department's ratings of all 93 prosecutors from December, when seven of the eight were terminated, including explanations of why officials decided certain prosecutors "might be on his or her way out" and why others were allowed to remain.

Three Democrats on the committee - Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Dianne Feinstein of California and Charles E. Schumer of New York - and the panel's top Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, asked that the documents be turned over by tomorrow so committee investigators can review them before Gonzales' scheduled testimony April 17.

"We hope subpoenas will not be necessary to compel cooperation with the committee's investigation," the four senators said in their letter to Gonzales.

There was no immediate reaction from Justice Department officials.

The Justice Department has already turned over thousands of pages of documents, including internal e-mails, to both the Senate panel and the House Judiciary Committee. Many of those documents suggest that Gonzales was deeply involved in the firing process, despite his public assertions that he was not.

In addition, Kyle Sampson, who resigned as Gonzales' chief of staff the day before the first release of e-mails, has testified before the Senate panel about his role in helping to orchestrate the firings. He has called the department's response to congressional questions about the dismissals "badly mishandled" and "an ugly, undignified spectacle."

E-mails show that Goodling, as the Justice Department's liaison with the White House, played a central role in the dismissals. She resigned Friday and has refused to cooperate with Senate and House investigators, saying that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination if called to testify.

Many Democrats are calling upon Gonzales to step down. At the same time, several key Republicans have expressed their unhappiness with how Gonzales and the Bush administration have handled the matter.

In their letter, the four senators said they believe that the Justice Department is holding back a number of important materials.

"Given that this was a process that extended over more than two years and involved staff from the Department of Justice and the White House," they wrote, " ... there would seem to be other documents that would comment upon the reasons some U.S. attorneys were chosen for removal and others were not."

Richard A. Serrano writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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