Specter Says Gonzales a ‘Wily Witness’

Arlen Specter says that Alberto Gonzales was intentionally misleading in his testimony before the Senate on the U.S. Attorney firings but that he was merely a “wily witness” rather than a perjurer. TPM‘s Paul Kiel has details:

Reading from a Supreme Court opinion on the statute of perjury, which said that a witness cannot be convicted of perjury simply because he is a “wily witness” who “shrewdly” evades the questioner by speaking “the literal truth,” Specter said that that’s what we have here. Gonzales is certainly “wily” and sought to mislead — but he spoke, in Specter’s judgment, “the literal truth.”

But “just because it’s not perjury,” Specter said, “doesn’t mean it’s the way that the highest ranking legal officer in the United States ought to respond to a Senate inquiry.” Specter went on to say that he thought that the conclusion of the committee’s investigation of the U.S. attorney firings would be to “end the tenure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.” When that conclusion will come, however, no one knows.

I agree with Specter on both counts. Presumably, however, “wily” is being used as a legal term of art here rather than in its common usage meaning “skillful” or “slick.” Bill Clinton was a wily witness; Gonzales is more like Wile E. Coyote.

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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. brainy435 says:

    “Bill Clinton was a wily witness; Gonzales is more like Wile E. Coyote.”

    WTF. That’s all I can think of for this idiocy. Clinton is wiley for actually perjuring himself while Gonzales is cartoonish because he was able to keep to “the literal truth.”? Nonsensical.

    Also, keep in mind that this guy was trying not to divulge classified material during a war while Spector and the rest of the asshat Congresspersons were repetedly refusing to walk away from the television cameras for any length of time to actually hear what the man had to say.

    Gonzales may not be a good AG, but he’s certainly a better AG than almost all of our current congresspersons are at conducting the business of congress.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Gonzales would not need to be wily if questioned in closed session instead of the public circus this has become. There are secrets of national security at stake but people like Leahy and Schumer don’t care as long as they look good on TV.

    As brainy435 said, he may not be a good AG but he’s better than these senators.

    By the way, exactly what has he done, specifically, to be considered such a bad AG? Besides not answering Chuck Schumer the way Chuck wanted.

  3. davod says:

    Steve:

    I would suggest that Gonzales has been badly served by his staff, some of whom have an agenda not aligned with the adminstration.

  4. legion says:

    Um… even if he’s not technically guilty of perjury (and I don’t cede that point yet), I’d have to say that willfully seeking to mislead Congress is more than enough reason to lose _all_ confidence in someone who’s supposed to be in charge of law enforcement for the nation. There is absolutely no legitimate reason this incompetent still has his job.

    Gonzales may not be a good AG, but he’s certainly a better AG than almost all of our current congresspersons are at conducting the business of congress.

    Amazingly, I actually agree with brainy on this…

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Legion,

    Please, what specifically leads you to say Gonzales is an incompetent? Also what specifically did he say that misled congress?

    I’m asking a question that should have been asked long ago and so far I’m not getting it answered.

  6. Philadelphia Steve says:

    Regardless of what Senator Specter says or decries in Alberto Gonzalez, he will in the end, as usual, roll over and play dead for the White House. Watch and see.

  7. Philadelphia Steve says:

    “Please, what specifically leads you to say Gonzales is an incompetent? Also what specifically did he say that misled congress?”

    I do not believe that AG Gonzalez is incompetent. It just appears that way as he decimates the DOJ by doing exactly what Karl Rove tells him to do (see any documented results in the Civil Rights Division, or the abandonment of prosecution of Congressman Jerry Lewis with the firing of US Attorney Carol Lam). It only looks incompetent because he has turned the DOJ into an extension of the Republican National Campaign Committee.

    As to misleading, his declaration that there was “no disagreement” about the White Hose spying programs to congress earlier this year was an outright lie (except for those whose parsing of words would be embarrassing to anyone outside of the White House with a shred of dignity).

  8. Wayne says:

    Philadelphia Steve
    Part of the actual transcripts

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/06/AR2006020601001.html

    “GONZALES: Lawyers disagree.
    SCHUMER: I concede all those points. Let me ask you about some specific reports.
    It’s been reported by multiple news outlets that the former number two man in
    the Justice Department, the premier terrorism prosecutor, Jim Comey, expressed
    grave reservations about the NSA program and at least once refused to give it
    his blessing. Is that true?
    GONZALES: Senator, here’s the response that I feel that I can give with respect
    to recent speculation or stories about disagreements.
    There has not been any serious disagreement — and I think this is accurate —
    there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president
    has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding
    operations which I cannot get into.
    I will also say…”

    Gonzales did not say there was “no disagreement”. So Steve I guess by your standard you lied.

    Another fishing expedition

  9. Grewgills says:

    WTF. That’s all I can think of for this idiocy. Clinton is wiley for actually perjuring himself while Gonzales is cartoonish because he was able to keep to “the literal truth.”? Nonsensical.

    Did Clinton actually commit perjury?
    Websters dictionary defines
    Sexual relations as sexual intercourse which it defines as

    1 : heterosexual intercourse involving penetration of the vagina by the penis

    Free Online dictionary defines
    Sexual relations

    1. sexual relation – the act of sexual procreation between a man and a woman; the man’s penis is inserted into the woman’s vagina and excited until orgasm and ejaculation occur

    Where was the perjury? What he did in this instance was shameful and dishonest, but not perjury. It seems to line up well with the definition of “wiley witness” as set down by the Supreme Court.

    What Gonzales has done, is at a minimum, shameful, dishonest, and intentionally misleading. It may rise to the level of perjury. It may be that he was just a shamefully dishonest but “wiley” witness or he may be a felon, we will see when all the evidence is out.

    In any case the Whitehouse continued the program without approval from the DoJ, whose opinion it was that the program was not legal. This action was supported by Gonzales in his capacity as WH counsel.

  10. brainy435 says:

    Grewgills, so Clinton was NOT impeached or disbarred? Or was that all cooked up by the VRWC?

  11. Randy says:

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Gonzalez is a liar. What’s really needed here is an impeachment trial for Gonzalez. There are many troubling issues and an obvious coverup. The abuse of “executive priveledge” by the Bush people is astonishing. Many people don’t realize that executive priviledge is a judicial construction, with no basis in any law and has a legitimate function in military and security matters, but no place in political matters such as the attourney firings. It is definately not a right. Clinton never got away with using executive priveledge, even in matters as private as consensual sex. The Democrats in Congress really need to grow a pair. Just yesterday one of Bush’s quizlings wouldn’t even divulge his job description to Congress. We the people need to cut off that dude’s salary.

    BTW, I really tire of giving civics lessons to right wingers but Clinton was indeed impeached, which is the political equivilant of being accused by a grand jury. He was aquitted in the senate.

  12. James Joyner says:

    BTW, I really tire of giving civics lessons to right wingers but Clinton was indeed impeached, which is the political equivilant of being accused by a grand jury. He was aquitted in the senate.

    Well, not quite. The Senate failed to get the two-thirds majority required to remove him from office, but half the Senators voted to do so. Many, if not most, of who voted against removal did so, not on the basis that he wasn’t “guilty” but that the crimes were not sufficiently serious to warrant removal.

  13. Philadelphia Steve says:

    And, of course, to Conservatives lying about a personal affair is MUCH WORSE than lying about government programs of illegal spying on Americans, isn’t it?

  14. Philadelphia Steve says:

    disagreementot been any serious disagreement — and I think this is accurate —
    there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president
    has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding
    operations which I cannot get into.
    I will also say…”

    Gonzales did not say there was “no disagreement”. So Steve I guess by your standard you lied.

    Another fishing expedition”

    That does not jive with the testimony of Gonzalez’ deputy and the director of the FBI. But then, the only real agenda here is toprotectt Gonzalez, and every member of the Bush Administration fromaccountabilityy, all the time, every where, just like the good old days of theRubberr Stamp Republican Congress, right?

  15. Shimanilami says:

    Impeach Gonzales!? No way. The Dem’s are wise to string this circus out for as long as they can. Every “I plead the Fifth” and “I cannot answer that under Executive Privelidge” statement made by a Republican tips the scales further towards a Democratic victory in 2008. And I don’t just mean in the White House.

    I can already see the political ads. “This is your Republican Party: Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales, Miers, DeLay, Haggerty, Ney, Stevens …” About 28% of you will say, “Yeah. That’s who I’m voting for.” Unfortunately for you, 28% ain’t going to cut it.

  16. puddlejumepr says:

    I would just like to point out that Clinton was legally acquitted of Perjury in the Jones v Clinton case. In order for someone to be guilty of Perjury, they have to lie about a material matter that has baring on the suit to which they are testifying. The Judge ruled that since the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship was consensual, under Federal law, no information regarding Clinton’s relationship were admissible in the Jones v. Clinton trial, ergo, Clinton did not commit perjury because he should not have been questioned about a private consensual relationship in the first place.

    I don’t know what Gonzales thins he’s doing – lying to cover up illegal activity or attempting to honor what he genuinely believes to be the President’s right to confidential council, but whatever he is doing – he is doing it very badly.