Senator Feinstein calls for Gonzales' resignation
On Fox News Sunday, today, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) for the first time publicly joined calls for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign.
"I think the day of the dual-hatted attorney general should be over," said Feinstein. "Attorney General Gonzales has had the view that he serves two masters, that he serves the president and that he serves as the chief law enforcement officer. He serves one master, and that's the people of this country."
Feinstein continued that an attorney general must be "straightforward" and "follow the law."
"I believe he should step down," she continued. "I think the nation is not well-served by this."
A video clip follows:
Full transcript of Feinstein interview:
MR. WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, what do you make, one, of this new disclosure that Gonzales, in fact, did meet with top aides ten days before the U.S. attorneys were fired? And how badly do you think he has been damaged as the chief law enforcement officer of the country?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I think he's been damaged very badly. He certainly has in my eyes, and I believe, in the eyes of the nation, and in the eyes of many, many senators. He said very clearly, I did not see any memos, I did not have any discussions. This firing was carried out on December 7th. The meetings were held shortly before that.
MR. WALLACE: November 27th.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: November 27th. Clearly he was there. Not only that, there was another email that says "Attorney General will call Senator Kyl." So, clearly, he knew. Now he's saying he doesn't know. I think the day of the dual-hatted attorney general should be over. Attorney General Gonzales has had the view that he serves two masters. That he serves the president, and that he serves as the chief law enforcement officer. He serves one master, and that's the people of this country, in being straightforward in following the law.
MR. WALLACE: I have to follow up, because --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: So --
MR. WALLACE: Up to this point, you have held off calling for his resignation.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Up to this point, up to this point, I have held off. It was really Friday when I saw this. You have to realize he called me --
MR. WALLACE: So, you think he should resign?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: He called me when I began to become involved in this, and told me I didn't know my facts, I didn't know what I was doing. It turns out he wasn't telling me the truth then, either.
MR. WALLACE: So you think he should step down?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I believe he should step down. And, I don't like saying this. This is not my natural personality at all. But I think the nation is not well-served by this. I think we need to get at the bottom of why these resignations were made, who ordered them, and what the strategy was.
MR. WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Lott about that, because you said we need to find out what really happened here. There is, as you well know, a long history of White House aides coming up and talking before Congress. There was a congressional study that was done that showed that 31 aides spoke, in the Clinton administration, spoke to Congress a total of 47 times.
Since the president is willing to allow his aides to Congress, how do you defend, or do you defend, his insistence that they testify in private, not under oath, no transcript being made?
SEN. LOTT: I believe that something could be worked out, and can be worked out in that regard. The question is, are the Democrats in the Senate interested in information or confrontation. In my mind, I think if the president would agree for his close advisors in the White House to testify before Congress under oath, he'd be making a huge mistake.
There is a thing called executive privilege. I do think --
MR. WALLACE: A lot of these Clinton aides testified under oath.
SEN. LOTT: Well, yeah., but that doesn't mean it was a smart thing to do, or that should have been done. I mean, I do think the president should pay attention to the precedence they set for their successors. Going back to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, I mean, you have a right to have executive privilege there. Can a way be worked out to discuss with these people what happened?
But, you know, in the end, eight were removed, and I assume there was some good cause. But frankly, if you just don't think a U.S. attorney is particularly to your liking, you ought to be able to remove him. And by the way, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer.
He has, you know, a high responsibility to do that job in the Constitution. He also works at the pleasure of the president. And that's the thing with Alberto Gonzales. As long as the president says I have confidence in the attorney general, he's going to stay.
MR. WALLACE: Senator, let's follow up on this issue that Senator Lott has brought up a couple of times. Congress has been looking at this for weeks. You have received more than 3,000 documents from the White House and the Justice Department. At this point, do you have any hard evidence that anyone at the Justice Department did anything illegal, improperly interfered with a political investigation?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, we're trying to ask those questions and we need to get those people before us. And the first one will come before us willingly. And I think that's commendatory. Willingly on Thursday.
MR. WALLACE: That's going to be the former chief of staff Kyle Sampson.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: That's correct. So, the questions are yet to be asked. Both Senator Leahy and Specter are trying to negotiate with the White House. I heard Senator Lott say, well, that they shouldn't take an oath. The oath isn't that important as the transparency and the transcript is.
And you know, you saw one right now. If it hadn't been in public when the attorney general said I've seen no memos, I've had no discussions, that was a very affirmative and definitive statement. If that hadn't been in public, he would have denied it.
MR. WALLACE: But, I mean, doesn't it say something, and we'll get back to that issue with Senator Lott, doesn't it say something that here you are, you've been looking at this for weeks, you've got 3,000 documents and there's still no there in this story?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: The there is why were they dismissed. And, you know, every day something new comes out. The attorney general in Michigan, Margaret Chiara --
MR. WALLACE: The U.S. attorney.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Excuse me, the U.S. attorney in Michigan has held a press conference and said she was dismissed, clearly for political reasons.
MR. WALLACE: But that's all right.
SEN. LOTT: The horrors of horrors. My goodness. How were they selected in the first place? And I have found that U.S. attorneys forget quite often how they got where they are. You know, they all of sudden think, hey I must be a federal judge, I'm here in perpetuity, I'll do what I please, and dare anybody to tell them, hey, you've got to prosecute more and more aggressively; running around trying to indict some lady that got a grant improperly instead of a billion dollar contractor, you know, you have questions about that.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Feinstein?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, six out of the eight of them are involved in public corruption cases. Most of those cases against Republicans. They were moved while the investigation or the prosecution was ongoing.
SEN. LOTT: But the one in California --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Or, they were removed --
SEN. LOTT: You wrote a letter about her --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Can I finish?
SEN. LOTT: Sure, go ahead. I mean, I don't see where there's a large number of them involved in, you know, corruption cases. I think they were involved -- were they taking action on death penalty cases, immigration cases --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Six -- I'll stand by my statement --
MR. WALLACE: Let Senator Feinstein answer your question.
SEN. LOTT: All right.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Six out of seven of them were involved in public corruption cases. This is, in particular, my interest. I think before you remove somebody, in the middle of a public corruption situation, you ought to be very sure of what you're doing, and that you don't, in any way, chill the investigation, or chill the trial, if it's going on. In the case of Carol Lam, it's a particularly sensitive time. The day after she sent a notice of intent to file search warrants against Dusty Foggo and a defense contractor that was close to Duke Cunningham, the email went out, "we have a real problem with Carol Lam."
MR. WALLACE: Yeah, but you want to say something about --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I want to ask whether that is a cause and effect. I'll have that opportunity, I hope, on Thursday.
MR. WALLACE: Well, let me just say something about that, Senator Feinstein, because we've seen the documents allow with you, and you're exactly right. Let's put it up on the screen. On May 10th, Lam told Justice that she was going to execute search warrants against Dusty Foggo involved to some degree, allegedly, in the Duke Cunningham case. The next day, Kyle Sampson sends this email to the White House, and asking to discuss "the real problem we have with Carol Lam."
The problem is, that a month before that, he had sent another email, asking, suggesting, that they get rid of Carol Lam. I mean, the fact was, they were upset, you were upset, with the fact that she was prosecuting immigration cases.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: No, no, no, no, no, no. I was not upset --
MR. WALLACE: Well, you sent a letter to the Justice Department --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I wrote a letter of inquiry, and I received an answer back, saying that her immigration prosecutions were satisfactory to the department.
MR. WALLACE: Okay. Let's move on, if we can, to Iraq, because that's the other big clash that's going on. Now, the House voted Friday to bring all, well, most U.S. combat troops, almost all of them, home by August 31st 2008. The Senate's going to consider a bill that would set a goal for getting most combat troops out by next March.
Senator Lott, do you have the votes to strip the timetable from the spending bill?
SEN. LOTT: We have not done a whip check specifically on this upcoming vote, but I believe that we do. There are members in the Senate in both parties that are comfortable with how things have gone in Iraq. But, they understand that artificial timetables, even as goals, are a problem.
Now, to have some benchmarks of things that we expect to happen, that's fine. But we will try to take out the arbitrary dates. You know, we need to put that kind of decision in the hands of our commanders who are there on the ground with the men and women. For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally irresponsible.
And here's the main point. It's sort of what -- you know, so far the Congress this year has done nothing, and even The New York Times talk (sic) about the perils of a heavy gavel. We're investigating, we're forcing our hand. This is not going to happen. So why are we going through this exercise of heaping pork on the backs of our men and women in uniform, and trying to put artificial dates which will not occur. We'll either knock it out or it'll be taken out in conference, or the president will veto.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, we're beginning to run out of time and I want you to answer that question.
But I also want to ask you another one at the same time. The Pentagon came out this week and said if they don't get this emergency spending, this is all about $100 billion in emergency spending, by mid-April, that it's going to hurt training, that it's going to hurt deployment, it's going to hurt repairs of important equipment. If it comes down to a choice between the timetable and funding the troops, and it may come down to that with vetoes and all these other things, where do you come down?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, first of all, I don't think we know that it will. I don't think that we need to engage in that hypothetical discussion. This is a very serious matter. And the Congress has an obligation. We're in our fifth year of this war now. A timetable, I believe, is, in fact, in order. This is a binding resolution that's in the supplemental. If you know, Senator Lott doesn't want help for Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, we'll take it in California for the freeze --
SEN. LOTT: I'm not going to be bribed for something that's going to be --
SEN. FEINSTEIN: That's for sure. I don't think you're being bribed, Senator --
MR. WALLACE: Let Senator Feinstein answer.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I don't think you're being bribed at all. Look, I know what happened in California in the freeze. And we take care of our own, too. And that's what I'm most proud of as an American. Having said that, this is a very big discussion. People of this country have spoken overwhelmingly. It's been constant now. They want us. It is time for the Senate to weigh in. I hope we will have the votes.
MR. WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, Senator Lott, I'd love to continue this conversation. And please come back, and we'll do so.
SEN. LOTT: We'll be back.
MR. WALLACE: But thank you for coming in today and sharing part of your Sunday with us.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you.