Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fitz Hosts Gonzales In Chicago

Attorney General Abu Gonzales has been touring the country, meeting with U.S. attorneys, and listening to their complaints and concerns about the recent spate of bad news surrounding Gonzales and the DOJ. Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for Chicago, hosted a meeting between Gonzo and U.S. attorneys from Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, and Washington State yesterday in Chicago. The New York Times reports Gonzales got an earful:

WASHINGTON, March 28 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales endured blunt criticism Tuesday from federal prosecutors who questioned the firings of eight United States attorneys, complained that the dismissals had undermined morale and expressed broader grievances about his leadership, according to people briefed on the discussion.


Several of the prosecutors said the dismissals caused them to wonder about their own standing and distracted their employees, according to one person familiar with the discussions. Others asked Mr. Gonzales about the removal of Daniel C. Bogden, the former United States attorney in Nevada, a respected career prosecutor whose ouster has never been fully explained by the Justice Department.


Behind the prosecutors’ complaints is what several officials have described as their anger about the seemingly arbitrary manner used to identify the United States attorneys selected for dismissal.

One recently released document that underscored their feelings was a chart prepared by Mr. Sampson in 2005 that ranked people as strong or weak performers and identified Mr. Fitzgerald, widely regarded as a highly able prosecutor, as undistinguished.

The article goes on to say that morale in the DOJ is "dispirited" and that Gonzales' staff and deputy A.G. Paul McNulty's staff are feuding over who is to blame for the mess in the department.

The word "embattled" does not even come close to describing how bad things are for Gonzales.

The conventional wisdom has it that Gonzales won't make it to April 17 when he is supposed to testify under oath before Congress.

We'll see what happens after Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle Sampson testifies before Congress today and says that other officials in the administration - including White House officials - were in the loop on the attorney firings and accuses Gonzales of a pattern of "imprecision" in Gonzo's public statements about the prosecutor purge.

I suspect a late Friday Gonzales resignation might be the order of the day.

POSTSCRIPT: One more thing to watch for today is how Sampson addresses this issue:

On Wednesday, Justice Department officials acknowledged that they provided incorrect information to Congress in a letter on Feb. 23 drafted by Mr. Sampson and approved by the White House counsel. The letter said that “the department is not aware” of the president’s adviser Karl Rove “playing any role” in the decision to appoint his former deputy, J. Timothy Griffin, as interim United States attorney in Arkansas.

The letter was written weeks after Mr. Sampson wrote in other messages that Mr. Griffin’s appointment was “important to Harriet, Karl, etc.,” referring to Mr. Rove and Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel at the time.

The messages describe an aide to Mr. Rove, J. Scott Jennings, holding conference calls with Justice Department officials about how to have Mr. Griffin installed despite Senate opposition.

Richard A. Hertling, acting assistant attorney general, told Congressional investigators on Wednesday that the letter was contradicted by the e-mail messages.

“We sincerely regret any inaccuracy,” Mr. Hertling said.

A spokesman for the White House, Tony Fratto, said the letter was reviewed by an associate White House counsel who left it to the Justice Department to double-check its accuracy.

“He did not double-check the Justice Department’s facts,” Mr. Fratto said. “He did caution Justice to make sure that the facts were accurate.”

Mr. Rove had no recollection of seeing the letter, Mr. Fratto said.

A lawyer for Mr. Sampson, Brad Berenson, declined to comment.

Lots of contradictions, inaccuracies, false recollections, spotty memories and good old finger-pointing over who first okayed the false statement to Congress that Rove had nothing to do with the prosecutor firings.

Might have to get some White House officials like Rove up their under oath to testify about the matter.

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