Gonzales: Prosecutors Firings Mishandled

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held a press conference in which he admitted to “mistakes” and “mishandling” in the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys but did not actually explain what those mistakes might have been.

At a Justice Department news conference, Gonzales said he would find out why Congress was not told sooner that the White House was involved in discussions of who would be fired and when. He did not back away, however, from his stance that the dismissals that did take place were appropriate.
“I stand by the decision and I think it was the right decision,” Gonzales said.

[…]

“Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information — incomplete information was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress,” Gonzales said. “I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress, it is accurate and it is complete. And I very dismayed that that may not have occurred here.”

So we have yet another case of “the cover-up is worse than the crime” when, yet again, no crime has been committed.

Regardless of what comes out in the end, I hereby reiterate my longstanding position that I’m tired of faux apologies. “Mistakes were made,” “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” and all the rest are much more annoying than silence

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    I also liked the “I take responsibility” but “I didn’t know anything” double-talk.

  2. […] I am with James Joyner in the following regard: Regardless of what comes out in the end, I hereby reiterate my longstanding position that I’m tired of faux apologies. “Mistakes were made,” “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” and all the rest are much more annoying than silence […]

  3. Anderson says:

    “Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information — incomplete information was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress,” Gonzales said. “I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress, it is accurate and it is complete. And I very dismayed that that may not have occurred here.”

    The theological implications of Gonzales’s continuing to draw breath after saying all that … well, they’re staggering, really.

  4. Triumph says:

    So we have yet another case of “the cover-up is worse than the crime” when, yet again, no crime has been committed.

    Exactly. The liberals are just sore losers.

    What’s the point of being President if you can’t use the mechanisms of the legal system to make illegitimate accusations against your opponents in the run-up to an election?

  5. Tlaloc says:

    So we have yet another case of “the cover-up is worse than the crime” when, yet again, no crime has been committed.

    And you know that how?

    At the very least their conduct was highly unethical. But pressuring prosecutors to make charges when they conclude their is no evidence is in fact a crime: obstruction of justice.

  6. legion says:

    Justice Department officials, led by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, told lawmakers under oath that the decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys in December was made solely by the Justice Department and said the decision was based on performance, not politics.

    E-mails released Tuesday, however, revealed that the firings were considered and discussed for two years by Justice Department and White House officials.

    Yeeeahhhh. About that “no crime” thing…

    And let’s deconstruct Gonzo’s defense just a little, here… He’s completely throwing McNulty and Sampson under the bus – claiming unashamedly that his own top aide was engaged in an extensive, years-long e-mail trail with the WH Counsel regarding the replacement of anywhere from a few to all 93 USA’s – people the DOJ’s own website consider pretty darn important:

    United States Attorneys conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. The United States Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 547 of the United States Code:

    -the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal government;
    -the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and
    -the collection of debts owed the Federal government which are administratively uncollectible.

    And Gonzo had “no idea” this was happening.

    A Justice Department official said Tuesday that Miers, in a February 2005 discussion with Sampson, suggested firing all of the U.S. attorneys. Snow described the idea as a move to get fresh faces in the 4-year term jobs, and said that it was not a firm recommendation by Miers.

    The e-mails show that Sampson rejected the idea to fire all of the prosecutors but spent the next year drawing up a list of potential dismissals. On Jan. 9, 2006, Sampson sent Miers a memo listing what the official described as roughly 10 names of prosecutors who were viewed as underperforming in their jobs.

    By September, Sampson began moving forward with the firings, the Justice official said.

    Uh-huh. It’s a “normal” thing to want to replace these guys at the start of a 4-year term. But the DOJ can’t replace them all at once (even though Clinton’s DOJ apparently was able to without missing a beat). So these two rogues work out who should go, and it took two years to start firing people?

    There are more holes in this load of tripe than surgery scars on Cheney’s heart. You want entertainment? Subpoena Sampson. Right after he’s charged with Obstruction of Justice. See who he throws under the bus.

  7. Anderson says:

    Legion, telling the truth under oath is “quaint.”

  8. Schumer Calls For Gonzales’s Resignation…

    Sen. Charles Schumer said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign because he is putting poli…

  9. Bithead says:

    Sure is.
    You can ask Bubba.

  10. BWE says:

    Ok, let me get this straight- You are writing in defense of this action? Or this administration?

  11. Bithead says:

    In that particular response I was suggesting that the ground that the attackers of the bush administration are standing on is more quicksand than anything else, given their history. As Hume says:

    News stories reporting that the Bush administration had considered firing all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country failed to mention that that is exactly what Bill Clinton did soon after taking office in 1993.

    he only sitting U.S. attorney Clinton did not cashier was Michael Chertoff, now the Bush Homeland Security Secretary. At the time Chertoff was U.S. attorney in New Jersey and then Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey intervened to save Chertoff’s job. None of this was noted, even in passing, in front-page stories today in The New York Times and Washington Post, or in the AP’s story on the subject.

    By the way, the mass Clinton firings generated some news stories, some complaints from Republicans in Congress, but no Congressional investigations, and not a word from Chuck Schumer.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Where was your outrage when Bill Clinton ordered Janet Reno to fire ALL of the U.S Attorneys? What part of “they serve at the pleasure of the President” do those critics fail to understand. Chuck Schumer is screaming for the AG’s head. Since Chucky boy is supposed to represent New York. I am assuming there were no New Yorkers in Walter Reed Hospital, because it has been years since the senator from NY has visited that facility, by his own admission. He should step down as senator.

  13. Jim Henley says:

    Kinsley’s Law that in politics “the scandal is what’s legal” would seem to apply perfectly to the Gonzales case.

  14. Hal says:

    I must say that I’m enjoying the resurgence of conservative whining at the hands of the all powerful democratic congress.

    Lying to congress about what you consider to be a non crime is still lying to congress.

    But I guess that’s been a tradition on the Republican side going back at least to Iran-contra.

  15. floyd says:

    [1]Wouldn’t “lying to congress” just be quid pro quo??

    [2] Anyone care to name an administration where this sort of shake-up didn’t occur?

  16. jpe says:

    [2] Anyone care to name an administration where this sort of shake-up didn’t occur?

    Midterm firings because the AGs wouldn’t prosecute the other party? How about every single other administration.

  17. graywolf says:

    Just another incident in the litany of raging incompetence of Bush and his worthless appointees.

    Gonzales seems especially worthless:

    Fitzgerald runs amuck – without a word from an apparently cowed administration.

    No prosecution of the NSA and SWIFT leaks.

    The mess with the Border Patrol agents. Guilty or not, it was a PR/management disaster.

    Sandy Berger walks.

    Its obvious he never established control over the liberal career appartchiks who really run the DOJ.

    Then he sits before the Senate Judiciary like a deer-in-the-headlights as Leahy thunders on about terrorists rights.

    Now, he’s claiming ignorance; that part IS true.

  18. jeff b says:

    When the president dismisses a US attorney who is in the middle of busting two members of Congress, the Pentagon, and the CIA on a sprawling corruption case, it’s not a crime, but it does put the Republic in danger. It’s assinine for OTB to continue their hear-no-evil routine on this story.

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  20. one bit shy says:

    So we have yet another case of “the cover-up is worse than the crime” when, yet again, no crime has been committed.

    Was it crime when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox? No, but that didn’t make it any less a scandal.

    There are a number of issues bubbling underneath these firings, but I believe the one that should really stand out to you – that should have raised alarms from the start – is the firing of Carol Lam.

    Lam was engaged in an extraordinarily high profile federal corruption case. It’s already taken down one U.S. Representative and indicted a high-level CIA official. It has been investigating House appropriations activity – notably Representative Jerry Lewis – and is rumored to be interested in related activity in Rumsfeld’s office.

    Firing U.S. prosecutors engaged in something at that level used to be nigh on impossible – and would automatically raise suspicion if it occurred.

    I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m certain that I *want* to know.

  21. […] –James Joyner: “So we have yet another case of “the cover-up is worse than the crime” when, yet again, no crime has been committed. Regardless of what comes out in the end, I hereby reiterate my longstanding position that I’m tired of faux apologies. “Mistakes were made,” “I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” and all the rest are much more annoying than silence.” […]

  22. […] James Joyner (Outside The Beltway) says the Gonzales affair is another instance of much ado about nothing. […]

  23. Pug says:

    When one issues an apology and claims “I take full responsibility”, shouldn’t one also offer to resign? I mean, isn’t that what taking full responsibility really means?

  24. The Knucklehead of the Day award…

    Today’s winner is US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales….

  25. […] Whatever the poor level of performance in his job, Gonzales now is a rich mine for quotes. This is double speak destroy the village in order to save it village idiot stuff. “Mistakes were made,” he said in fluent scandalese, but “I think it was the right decision.” […]