What the Senators Should Ask

There are really only two questions the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to ask Alberto Gonzales today:

    1. Why are you such a lying turkey?

    2. When are you going to resign?

But that would make for an unduly short hearing, so here are a few more questions, just to fill in the time:

1. In your prepared testimony released over the weekend, you assert that you had no advance role in planning for the Pearl Harbor Day massacre. An email sent last year by your assistant, Kyle Sampson, says otherwise. Can you explain the discrepancy?

2. If you were concerned about the performance of the U.S. Attorneys who were fired, why didn't you or anyone from DoJ HQ write them to document those concerns and ask for plans of improvement? Isn't that normal management practice?

3. If you were concerned about the performance of the U.S. Attorneys who were fired, why did the Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys not know anything about those concerns until the firings happened?

4. Did anyone in the White House, directly or indirectly, ever express concern about Carol Lam's corruption investigations? Who? When? What was said?

5. Do you agree with the theory offered by U.S. Attorney Biskupic that, whenever political considerations enter into the award of a public contract, that constitutes misappropriation of funds? Has the Public Integrity Section considered or brought such cases against any Bush Administration officials? Why not? And if you don't think that theory is legally sound, why does Mr. Biscupic still have a job?

6. Is it true that Karl Rove and/or Pete Domenici asked you to fire David Iglesias? If so, what were their stated reasons? Is it true that you refused to fire him without a direct order from the president? Did you ever discuss Mr. Iglesias's tenure with the president? Did he instruct you to fire Mr. Iglesias?

7. No doubt you've seen the letter sent by an anonymous group of DoJ career staff, charging that the Honors Program hiring process has been politicized, and that summa cum laude graduates of Harvard and Yale Law Schools chosen by the operating divisions as potential new hires were denied interviews on the orders of the Deputy Attorney General's office because their resumes indicated liberal political leanings or experience working for Democratic legislators. What inquiries have you made into the truth of those allegations? When can you have us a full report, with the names of the candidates redacted?

8. When was it decided that the Civil Rights Division would give preference in hiring to attorneys with no experience in civil rights law? Why? Is it helpful for fewer than half of the new hires to have relevant experience, compared to the historical average of more than three-quarters?

Or is it simply that less experienced attorneys generally aren't as likely as career professionals to resist political interference?

9. During your tenure, the Department has moved away from prosecuting cases of voter intimidation and suppression and toward prosecuting cases of "voter fraud." But you have yet to develop a case where there was any concerted effort to steal a federal election by having ineligible people vote, and in fact a high proportion of the "vote fraud" indictments brought have ended in acquittals. A consultant's report to the Election Assistance Commission found no evidence of any widespread vote fraud, but did find systematic voter suppression and intimidation. Why, in the face of this evidence, do the Department and the White House and the RNC continue to insist that "voter fraud" is a serious problem. If it is, why can't you seem to find any?

10. In your view, does the theory of the unitary executive bar the Justice Department from prosecuting White House officials for contempt of Congress if they refuse to comply with Congressional subpoenas?

11. After Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified before this committee that the U.S. Attorney for Arkansas, Bud Cummins, had been let go for purely political reasons, Brian Roehrkasse of your public affairs staff, who was traveling with you in Argentina, sent an email to your chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, saying that you were unhappy with that testimony. Were you unhappy about it because it was false, or because it was true? If you thought it was false -- if you thought, that is, that the Deputy Attorney General of the United States had testified falsely before this committee -- why did you not notify the committee, or insist that Mr. McNulty notify the committee, about the error? If you didn't think it was false, what was the basis of your concern? Did you think it inappropriate for the Deputy Attorney General to tell the truth under oath?

12. There are conflicting stories about the role of the junior senator from Minnesota, Mr. Coleman, in the appointment of Rachel Paulose as U.S. Attorney. It would have been normal for the only senator of the President's party from the affected state to be consulted. Did you, or to your knowledge anyone in DoJ or the White House, ever discuss Ms. Paulose's appointment with Senator Coleman? If so, what was his advice?

13. What was your role in inserting the provision allowing the president to appoint replacement U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation into the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization? To your knowledge, who first came up with that proposal? At what point did you first consider using that provision in connection with the Pearl Harbor Day massacre? How did it happen that Mr. Tolman, formerly the Chief Counsel to this committee who (according to the senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Specter, then the Chairman) oversaw the somewhat surreptitious insertion of that provision into the law, then became United States Attorney for Utah? Why did the Department oppose the repeal of that provision after the Pearl Harbor Day massacre? What communications have you had with the senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, about his placing of a hold on that repeal proposal even after DoJ reversed its stated position?

14. Why wasn't Monica Goodling dismissed immediately after she asserted her right against self-incrimination in connection with the Pearl Harbor Day massacre? Would that not be consistent with the Department's pressure on corporations to fire employees who refuse to cooperate in investigations?

Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA. He blogs for The Reality-Based Community.

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