Leahy: Bush 'must go back to the rule of law'
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), appearing on Face The Nation today, slammed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for not "telling the truth" during testimony before Congressional committees investigating the firing of nine US attorneys, adding that President Bush "must go back to the rule of law."
"Well, many say he should fire the attorney general, but I think it's more than that," Leahy said. "I think he has to state we have made -- we, the administration have made -- some bad mistakes in saying we're above the law. Nobody's above the law. The president's not above the law, you're not, I'm not. And he's got to go back to the rule of law. If we need to make changes in our Intelligence Surveillance Act, for example, we'll do that. We've done this a half a dozen times already."
Leahy added, "The irony is, though, the Department of Justice which is supposed to be very impartial, it's supposed to be impartial to law enforcement, is being shredded by his activities."
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called for Gonzales to correct the record.
"Let's give him a chance," he said.
When moderator Bob Schieffer questioned Specter as to the importance of the situation with the attorney general, Specter replied, "The Department of Justice is second only to the Department of Defense in protecting the American people."
The following video is from CBS's Face the Nation, broadcast on July 29.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation," did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lie to Congress? And sports in crisis.
The divide between the Democrats and the administration has grown so wide that now Democrats want a special prosecutor to determine of the attorney general is a liar. What is the impact of this Washington argument on the Justice Department and the American public it is supposed to serve? We'll talk to key members of the Judiciary Committee -- Democratic Chairman Pat Leahy and Republican Arlen Specter.
Then we'll turn to what may be the worst week ever in sports -- the basketball betting scandal, the dog fighting charges against football star Michael Vick and the baseball record that's about to fall under a steroid cloud. We'll talk about all that with sports commentators Frank Deford, John Feinstein and Jason Whitlock.
We'll round it out with our weekly check on politics as we bring in Jim VandeHei of politico.com. Then I'll have a final word on Iraq, the war that never ceases to stop. But first, the fight over Gonzales on "Face the Nation."
MR. SCHIEFFER: Good morning, again. Well, joining us now, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. With us from Philadelphia, the committee's Ranking Republican Senator Arlen Specter.
Senator Leahy, this week Democrats called for a special prosecutor to determine if the attorney general of the United States, the highest law enforcement officer in the government, has been lying to your committee and Congress. This grows out of whether he told your committee the truth about whether there was disagreement within the administration over the president's eavesdropping program, the once-secret eavesdropping program. Just the latest in the series of controversies with your committee.
Now, you told the attorney general this week that you were going to give him one week to correct the answers that he gave to your committee. What if he doesn't?
SEN. LEAHY: He answered under oath at great length. I think a lot of us, Republicans and Democrats, were incredulous at some of the answers. I told him, frankly, I don't trust him. But in fairness, I've given him the testimony. He has a week to correct it if he wants. I suggest he consult with a lawyer as he does it. If he doesn't correct it, then I think that there are so many errors in there that the pressure will be very, very heavily felt, whether it's a special prosecutor, a special counsel, efforts within the Congress. The irony is, though, the Department of Justice which is supposed to be very impartial, it's supposed to be impartial to law enforcement, is being shredded by his activities. And if you lose confidence in law enforcement, it hurts everybody all the way down to the cop on the beat. Frankly, at this point, the president ought to take a long look at this and ask, does he want to go down in history with this attorney general as part of his historical record?
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you, if he doesn't change testimony, then will you go along with the four Democratic senators who say there should be a special prosecutor?
SEN. LEAHY: I think if he doesn't change then what I want to do is spend some time discussing it with Senator Specter. This is a matter that I'd like to approach on a bipartisan fashion. But I think that we would also be asking whoever's left there at the Department of Justice who doesn't have to recuse themselves to take this, go through it and give us some recommendations back.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Specter's in Philadelphia with us this morning. Let's just ask him. What do you think ought to be the next step here, Senator?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, I think we ought to give the attorney general a chance to correct the record. There is no doubt, as I have said repeatedly for months now, that the Department of Justice would be much better off without him. One of the problems which we have is that Senator Leahy and I have never been read into the program. I tried to get it done when I was chairman, and we need to know precisely what there is to the program. There have been some suggestions in the last couple of days that there may have been a separate facet of the terrorist surveillance program. So let's give him a chance. The Judiciary Committee is not in the business of setting up perjury prosecutions. What we want to do is find out what the facts are so that we can formulate public policy and legislation and get the Department of Justice back on its feet. I think it's premature, until he's had a chance to review the record and supplement his answers, to call for a special prosecutor.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah, let me just ask you this question, Senator Specter. Is this just another of those so-called Washington arguments? Or does what happens here really matter to the average American sitting out there watching television this morning?
SEN. SPECTER: It matters a great deal. First of all, we do not yet know the details of the wiretaps without warrants, and that's an invasion on privacy, and we haven't yet gotten to the bottom of that. Secondly, the Department of Justice is second only to the Department of Defense in protecting the American people -- investigations on terrorism, on organized crime, on violent crime, on drugs. And that department is dysfunctional, and it's been dysfunctional for a long time.
SEN. LEAHY: I think it's important, because law enforcement is supposed to be impartial, and it's supposed to follow the law. Here we have an administration that feels they're above the law, that the law applies to everybody except them, and we have a Department of Justice that goes along with that. Bob, you can't -- I mean, I was a prosecutor. Arlen Specter was a prosecutor. A number of us in there, both Republicans and Democrats, are really upset with this, because we know how law enforcement is supposed to work. This is going to have a devastating effect on law enforcement throughout the country if it's not cleared up. I think we have a responsibility to try to clear it up. It would help if the president would stop turning a blind eye to what is really misconduct in the Department of Justice.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what should the president do?
SEN. LEAHY: Well, many say he should fire the attorney general, but I think it's more than that. I think he has to state we have made -- we, the administration have made -- some bad mistakes in saying we're above the law. Nobody's above the law. The president's not above the law, you're not, I'm not. And he's got to go back to the rule of law. If we need to make changes in our Intelligence Surveillance Act, for example, we'll do that. We've done this a half a dozen times already.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Is that what this is all about, when you come down to it, is whether or the administration has been telling you the truth about this eavesdropping program?
SEN. LEAHY: Well, they haven't been telling the truth. And after the attorney general testified, you had key members of the intelligence committee that he testified about said that's not the way it happened.
MR. SCHIEFFER: It's all very, very arcane, and I think that's why it's hard for a lot of people to understand what's going on here.
SEN. LEAHY: It is, but you have to follow the law, I have to follow the law, they should have to follow the law. That's the bottom line.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think, Senator Specter, as The New York Times said today, that perhaps you should consider, the Congress should consider impeaching the attorney general if the president can't get him to leave?
SEN. SPECTER: I think it's premature to consider that. Bob, we do not know if the administration has been leveling with us or not on the terrorist surveillance program. I don't know, because I haven't been read into the program. Finally, I got a call yesterday from a ranking administration official describing the program to me, and on Monday, tomorrow, I'm going to be read into the program. I want to know what the program is all about. I don't know if they've been telling us the truth or not, because I do not know what the program is. Essentially, what the attorney general has said, is that there are two programs, more than the one the president has identified. I want to find out if that's true or not.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. So he has a week here.
SEN. LEAHY: He has a week, but the testimony he gave is not truthful. I want the truth. That's all I want.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll be back in a minute to talk about this week that was in sports.