WASHINGTON, March 26 LawFuel – Legal News, Law Jobs — The following is a transcript of NBC news interview with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales:
PETE WILLIAMS: Mr. Attorney General, what is it that you would like
people to know about this controversy?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES: Let me begin with the attacks on
my credibility, which really have pained me and my family. You know, I have grown up — I grew up with nothing but my integrity. And someday, when I leave this office, I am confident that I will leave with my integrity. The United States Attorneys that were asked to resign were appointed by this President, they serve, like me, at the pleasure of the President.
I asked for their resignation not for improper reasons. I would never
have asked for their resignations to interfere with a public corruption
case or in any way to interfere with an ongoing investigation. I just
wouldn’t do that. And if you look carefully at the documentation we’ve
provided to Congress, there’s no evidence of that.
But just to be sure, I’ve asked the Office of Professional
Responsibility at the department to look into this. And they will be
working, along with the Office of Inspector General, to make it clear and
reassure the American people that nothing improper happened here. Our
record in public corruption at the department is extremely strong. And I
think if you look at the record, you’ll see that whether or not you’re a
governor, whether or not you’re a member of Congress, whether or not you’re a deputy secretary at a Cabinet agency, whether or not you’re a local
official, whether or not you’re Republican, whether or not you’re Democrat, we have an obligation.
We’ve upheld that obligation to ensure that public officials do not
violate the public’s trust. I believe in truth and accountability, Pete.
And everything that I’ve done is supportive of that principle. I directed
the Department to turn over 3,000 pages of documents.
I directed the Department officials participate in interviews and
hearings before the Congress. As I’ve indicated, I’ve asked OPR to be
involved, to work with the Office of Inspector General so we can reassure
the American public that nothing improper happened here. I’ve got nothing
to hide in terms of what I’ve done. And we now want to reassure the
American public that nothing improper happened here.
If I find out that, in fact, any of these decisions were motivated, the
recommendations to me were motivated for improper reasons to interfere with the public corruption case, there will be swift and — there will be swift and decisive action. I can assure you that.
PETE WILLIAMS: Meaning people would be fired?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Absolutely. Because there is no place for
that. Our prosecutors have to — there has to be no question about the
integrity, the professionalism, undue influence of prosecutions in
connection with public corruption kinds of cases. And if I find out that
any of that occurred here involving the Department of Justice officials,
yes, they will be removed.
PETE WILLIAMS: Can you answer some of the questions that have come up
over the weekend? As you know, there was an email that came out Friday
night that showed that ten days before the firings there was a meeting in
your office, which you attended to discuss the firings. And yet when you
talked to us here at the Justice Department two weeks ago, you said you
were not involved in any discussions about the firings. Can you explain
what seems like a contradiction?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Let me just say, a wise senator recently
told me that when you say something that is either being misunderstood or
can be misunderstood, you need to try to correct the record and make the
record clear. Let me try to be more precise about my involvement. When I
said on March 13th that I wasn’t involved, what I meant was that I had not
been involved, was not involved in the deliberations over whether or not
United States Attorneys should resign.
After I became Attorney General, I had Kyle Sampson coordinate a
department review of the performance of United States Attorneys. And I
expected him to consult with appropriate Department of Justice officials
who had information and knowledge about the performance of United States
Attorneys. From time to time, Mr. Sampson would tell me something that
would confirm in my mind that that process was ongoing.
For example, I recall him mentioning to me that inquiry from the White
House about where were we in identifying underperformers? And there are
other similar type reminders that occurred during this process that I’m
going to discuss specifically with the Congress.
I was never focused on specific concerns about United States Attorneys
as to whether or not they should be asked to resign. I was more focused on identify– or making sure that the White House was appropriately advised of the progress of our review. And I was also concerned to ensure that the
appropriate Department of Justice officials, people who knew about the
performance of United States Attorneys, that they were involved in the
Now, of course, ultimately at the end of the process or near the end of
the process, the recommendations were presented to me. There had been a lot
of work done to review the performance of these United States Attorneys.
And recommendations were presented to me that reflected the recommendations of Kyle Sampson and of others in the department. And so there was obviously a discussion with respect to that recommendation.
And, of course having decided there will be changes, there was a
discussion about how do we implement this change? And so that is, in
essence, the context of my involvement and the substance of my comments on March 13th.
PETE WILLIAMS: So you didn’t get into the decision about specifically
which US Attorneys to include on this list until the very end?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Absolutely. Now, that’s not to say that
during the process I may not have heard about the performance or a
particular matter with respect to the United States Attorney. For example, we’ve already confirmed that Senator Domenici did call me about the performance of the United States Attorney in New Mexico.
The President, the White House has already confirmed that there was a
conversation with the President, mentioned it to me in a meeting at the
Oval Office, in terms of concerns about the commitment to pursue voter
fraud cases in three jurisdictions around the country. I don’t remember
that conversation, but what I’m saying is, is during the process there may
have been other conversations about specifically about the performance of
US attorneys. But I wasn’t involved in the deliberations as to whether or
not a particular United States Attorney should or should not be asked to
PETE WILLIAMS: By the way, do you-
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Let me just, I don’t recall being involved.
Let me be more precise because I know that with respect to this particular
topic, people parse carefully the words that I use. And I want to be
careful about what I say. And, of course, at the end of the day, I will
have the opportunity to present my story to the Congress, as will other DOJ officials — Department of Justice officials.
PETE WILLIAMS: You mentioned the conversations with the president. What
role did they play in deciding which US Attorneys would be on the list?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: As far as I know, Pete, they did not play a
role in adding names or taking off names. Now, obviously these are
appointees of the President. The White House was involved in placing them
in their position. The White House would have to be at least informed if a decision was going to be asked, to ask for people’s resignation.
There’s nothing improper about that. And, of course, there’s nothing
improper about the White House communicating, as a general matter,
complaints about Department of Justice employees. I want to know if, in
fact, the White House has received a complaint or has concerns about the
performance of a department employee, I would want to know about it. And
I’d like to hear, I’d like to hear it from the White House.
PETE WILLIAMS: So the list came to you toward the end for you to sign
off on. But you were not involved in deciding who should be on or off the
list during the process.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I was not involved in the deliberations
during the process as to who — who should or should not be — asked to
PETE WILLIAMS: If that–
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I depended on the people who knew about how those United States Attorneys were performing, people within the department who would have personal knowledge of, about these individuals, who would
have, based upon their experience, would know what would be the appropriate standards that a United States attorney should be asked to achieve.
PETE WILLIAMS: Given that, then how can you be certain that none of
these U.S. attorneys were put on that list for improper reasons?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: What I can say is this: I know the reasons
why I asked these United States Attorneys to leave. And it was not for
improper reasons. It was not to interfere with the public corruption case.
It was not for partisan reasons.
We also know that there’s nothing in the documents that indicates that they were asked to leave for improper reasons. But all, but lastly, just to be sure, I have asked for an internal review by the Office of Professional Responsibility, working with the Office of Inspector General. And, of
course, the Congress is going to be doing its own review, because I want to know as well if, in fact, there were improper reasons, we should know about it. And there will be accountability.
PETE WILLIAMS: To put this question another way: if you didn’t review
their performance during this process, then how can you be certain that
they were fired for performance reasons?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I’ve given the answer to the question, Pete.
I know the reasons why I made the decision. Again, there’s nothing in the
documents to support the allegation that there was anything improper here.
And there is an internal department review to answer that question, to
reassure the American people that there was nothing improper that happened here.
PETE WILLIAMS: Given that, how difficult is it going to be — you just said there’s a shortage of documentation here — how hard is it going to be to make the case to Congress that they were not fired for improper reasons if there isn’t a lot of documentation on the reasons they were put on the
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I didn’t, I don’t think that I said there
was a shortage of documentation. Listen, what I will say is this. The
evaluations of individual United States attorneys is not solely contained
within the documents.
Obviously, people have personal observations, personal views that may
not be reflected in those documents. Those will be presented to the
Congress at the appropriate time.
PETE WILLIAMS: May I just, with Tasia’s forbearance, ask you one final question. Obviously you’ve chosen to stay and fight this issue. Why?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I think that every Cabinet official has to
ask themselves — every day — Is it still appropriate for me to lead a
Cabinet department? It’s something that I’ve been asking myself more lately
than perhaps others. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about Alberto
Gonzales. It’s about this great Department of Justice that does so many
wonderful things for the American people. And our record here in the past
two years in the area of civil rights, in the area of protecting our kids
against child predators, protecting the country against terrorism, making
our neighborhoods safe from drugs and gangs has really been outstanding.
Also about public corruption, our public corruption record has been
tremendous. So we’ve done some great things. I believe that that can still
continue. Obviously I — we have to deal with this situation with the
Congress. We have to reassure the American people that nothing improper
And I’m confident we’ll be able to do that. But I also believe that we
can still move forward and still continue to do great things for the
American people. And as long as I have the confidence of the President, I
intend to do just that.
PETE WILLIAMS: Mr. Attorney General, thank you.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Thanks, Pete.