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Gonzales criticized for holding up documents, answers to questions
Michael Roston
Published: Friday April 6, 2007
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The Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has come in for criticism by the Senate Judiciary Committee in the past two days for failing to turn over documents related to the firing of 8 US Attorneys and for failing to answer questions submitted after a Jan. 18 hearing.

The Washington Post reported today that the Justice Department has still failed to turn over hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the firing of 8 US Attorneys.

"Democratic investigators were upset to learn about the additional batch of records in recent visits to the department, according to a Senate aide," wrote the Post's Paul Kane. "They were discovered over the past two weeks as staff investigators for the House and Senate judiciary panels, working in a special office inside the Justice Department, reviewed the censored portions of e-mails and other records that had already been sent to Capitol Hill in redacted form, according to Justice Department and Senate aides."

Next Thursday, the Senate committee will issue subpoenas for the documents, Kane reported.

The Post article also noted that the Senate Appropriations Committee had canceled a hearing on the Justice Department's annual budget request at which the Attorney General was set to testify.

"The move to call off the budget hearing makes Gonzales's scheduled April 17 appearance before the judiciary panel even more of a make-or-break moment for Gonzales," Kane wrote.

Also, in a letter to Alberto Gonzales yesterday first reported by RAW STORY last night, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) complained that it had been three months since the Attorney General last appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and answers to questions requested for the hearing's record still had not been forwarded to the committee.

"Regrettably, the Committee has yet to receive answers from the written questions sent to you in connection with that January 18th hearing," wrote the Judiciary Committee Chairman. "We are approaching three months since the last hearing, yet you and the Department seem to be repeating the practice of not responding in a timely manner....Although the Committee was informed weeks ago to expect your answers to our questions on a rolling basis, we have yet to receive a single answer."

Leahy's letter was sent in advance of a Thursday, April 17 hearing at which Gonzales will testify before the Judiciary Committee. The senator requested in his letter that the Attorney General's prepared remarks include "a full and complete account of the development of the plan to replace United States Attorneys, and all the specifics of your role in connection with that matter."

The letter went on to note that the Justice Department had also held up answers to the record completed by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller. Leahy criticized Gonzales for not meeting his department's own standards.

"You would not tolerate this kind of response time in a Justice Department investigation where months go by without answers and when those answers are finally provided they are outdated or superseded by events," Leahy complained to the Attorney General.

A number of unanswered questions were evident at the Jan. 18 hearing. When Gonzales was asked about whether certain decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (which considers the government's wiretapping requests) could be handed over to the Senate Committee, he responded, "that's a decision that I would like to take back to my principal."

Gonzales also said in January that he would try to provide the senators with more information on a variety of topics, including an investigation into leaks from an FBI probe concerning former Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon, whether Congress has the authority to prevent the president from increasing troop levels in Iraq, the ways in which the department was sharing gun trace data with state and local law enforcement agencies, the number of prosecutors and investigators assigned to dealing with contracting fraud in Iraq, and details on the case of the Canadian extraordinary rendition victim Maher Arar.

Senator Arlen Specter, the committee's top Republican, criticized Gonzales during the January hearing for failing to submit answers to questions from a July hearing in a timely manner.

"This contains your responses to the hearing six months ago, July 18th of last year. And we have 186 pages, and I'm a speed-reader, Attorney General Gonzales, but not this speedy," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "Is there any justification for dropping this on us this morning?"

Gonzales answered at the time that there was no justification.

"I'm disappointed in placing the committee in that position. It shouldn't have happened," he said.

Leahy's letter can be read at the Senator's website. The Washington Post article is accessible at this link.