Thursday, March 22, 2007

Democratic Statements On Gonzales Scandal

The U.S. Senate is a flurry of activity this week on multiple fronts, but most Senators are weighing in on the scandal involving Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the politically-motivated firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.

Here are some of those statements from the Senate floor:

Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

"Some have been content to casually dismiss the administration's actions relating to the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys as a comedy of errors at the Justice Department. Make no mistake about it, this is no comedy, this is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for eight public servants whose reputations have been wrongly trashed. It is a tragedy for the reputation of the Justice Department, as a whole, and for the Attorney General, in particular. Most importantly, however, it is a tragedy for public confidence in our system of justice.

"How can people have faith when the documents show that in this Justice Department allegiance to party is apparently valued over loyalty to the rule of law? How can citizens not be cynical when it is clear the PATRIOT Act was cynically manipulated to bypass checks and balances?"

Patty Murray (D-WA)

"Every American needs to have confidence in our system of justice, but in the last few weeks that confidence has, frankly, been deeply shaken. Each day, we get new evidence that the Bush administration injected partisan politics into a process that requires independence, and each day we get more proof this administration has not been telling the truth."

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

"I returned from Iraq yesterday, and I look forward to reflecting on lessons learned from that trip later on this week. But I will say that my Senate colleagues and I had extensive discussions with Iraqi political leaders as well as the American military about the need to restore the rule of law in Iraq. I have always been proud that our judicial process has been the gold standard for the rest of the world. It is ironic, then, that even as I spoke with Iraqi leaders about their challenges, we Americans were learning a very public lesson about how the rule of law can be undermined in even the most advanced democracies.

"We have learned this past month that our Nation's chief law enforcement officer, our leading guardian of the rule of law in this country, has allowed politics to creep too close to the core of our legal system. This administration has determined that Washington politicians, not prosecutors out in the field--and perhaps, in some cases, not even the facts--will dictate how prosecutions should proceed. The consequences are unacceptable."

Ben Cardin (D-MD)

"The manner in which these eight U.S. attorneys were removed from office raised many concerns that all of us should be concerned about. This raises concerns about the independence of the U.S. attorney and whether these investigations will be conducted with the public interest in mind or to further a political agenda.

"It raises concerns as to whether the Department of Justice or the White House was trying to influence the independent judgments of the U.S. attorney in a specific investigation. It raises concerns as to how Congress was kept informed as to how these removals were being handled. Information that was made available to us was inconsistent and certainly raises questions as to whether Congress itself was being misled by the Department of Justice."

Tom Harkin (D-IA)

"Like many in this body, I have watched in dismay as more and more details of this administration's efforts to fire Federal prosecutors and replace them with loyal partisans have become public. There has been a great deal of discussion of these facts on the floor of this Senate--the fact that those U.S. attorneys who were fired were criticized in one e-mail for not being ``loyal Bushies,'' and the fact that many of these U.S. attorneys had received glowing personnel reviews in the time leading up to their firings.

"As difficult as it is to believe that the administration seriously considered wholesale replacement of the U.S. attorneys, it is even more troubling that they proceeded to summarily dismiss eight prosecutors for very murky reasons and then tried to justify their actions as performance based. Given that each of the prosecutors underwent a detailed favorable review, it has become very clear that this is simply not true.

"More troubling still is that at least three of the fired prosecutors were involved in political corruption probes that were not proceeding in a way that the administration viewed as politically favorable, and in at least two of these cases lawmakers and their staff personally intervened with the prosecutors."

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

"The administration's attack on sitting U.S. attorneys is an unprecedented abuse of power. The White House and the Attorney General injected politics into the process and chose to fire eight U.S. attorneys, including our U.S. attorney in San Diego, Carol Lam. These attorneys were not fired because of poor job performance, as the Attorney General initially claimed, but because in one way or another they did not carry out the political agenda of the White House."

Carl Levin (D-MI)

"We all know that U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. However, U.S. attorneys are supposed to be loyal to the Constitution, not the President and Attorney General. When they are sworn in, U.S. attorneys swear to ``support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'' There is no requirement that U.S. attorneys ``exhibit loyalty to the President and Attorney General,'' as was said to be a goal in an e-mail from Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales, recommending the retention of those attorneys."

Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

"The Attorney General took an oath to uphold our Constitution and respect the rule of law. But time and time again, he has demonstrated that his loyalties lie with the President and his political agenda, not the American people or the evenhanded and impartial enforcement of our laws. In executing the White House's political directives by firing U.S. attorneys who would not carry out the administration's partisan witch hunts, the Attorney General undermined the objectives of the Department of Justice, putting politics ahead of the just enforcement of the law."

Robert Byrd (D-WV)

"It is gotten so that, every morning when I open the paper and see another story describing the administration's incompetence or wrongdoing,

"We see more clearly, every day, that the executive branch of our Government is in dire need of a thorough housecleaning, to rid itself of the conniving agents lodged in its bureaus, who apparently will stop at nothing to grab power for the Executive at the expense of the Congress and the People who send us here to represent them.

"This White House has made it crystal clear that it has no respect for the separation of powers; no respect for our constitutional system of checks and balances; and no respect for even the rule of law, going so far as to pervert the appointment of U.S. attorneys for its own partisan purposes."

Ken Salazar (D-CO)

"I am disappointed the Department of Justice may have blurred the line between the representation of President Bush as a client and the representation of the people of the United States. I understand that distinction very well, having served both as chief counsel to the Governor of my State as well as attorney general for the State of Colorado.

"Those are two very different positions. One requires -- in the case of chief counsel to the Governor or chief counsel to the President -- a lawyer-client relationship. The other -- Attorney General -- requires the representation of the people whom you represent. In the case of a State attorney general, you are the representative of the people of that State. In the case of the U.S. Attorney General, you are the representative of the people of the United States of America.

"If Attorney General Gonzales has, indeed, crossed this line, then in my view he has forfeited his right to lead the Department of Justice."