July 26th, 2007
09:16 AM ET
10 years ago

Senate Dems call for Gonzales perjury investigation

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) –A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday called for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales perjured himself during Capitol Hill testimony.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies under oath Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The group said it plans to make the request in a letter to the solicitor general.

The development came just before Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer, Russ Feingold, Sheldon Whitehouse and Dianne Feinstein were set to hold a news conference on Gonzales' testimony before the Judiciary Committee this week.

It's the latest salvo in a dispute regarding President Bush's domestic surveillance program. On Wednesday night, the Justice Department said Gonzales "stands by" Senate testimony that appeared to contradict a memo about a White House meeting with congressional leaders in 2004.

Gonzales testified under oath Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the March 10, 2004, meeting - when Gonzales was White House counsel - was not prompted by the Bush administration's program to monitor communications with terror suspects overseas without warrants.

Under questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said that on March 10, 2004 - when he was White House counsel - he and other officials met at the White House with eight top congressional leaders after Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to approve "continuation of a very important intelligence activity."

In his testimony, Gonzales refused to discuss what that the intelligence activity was, but he testified the dispute with Comey that prompted the meeting - and a subsequent visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in his hospital bed - was not over a controversial program to monitor communications with terror suspects overseas without warrants.

At the time, Comey was in charge of the Justice Department because Ashcroft was seriously ill.

However, the White House meeting appears on a list of briefings about the terrorist surveillance program provided to Congress by National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in 2006.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Wednesday night that while he was aware of the Negroponte memo, Gonzales "stands by his testimony."

According to the list compiled by Negroponte's office, other attendees at the meeting included then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, along with Nancy Pelosi, who was then minority leader in the House and is now speaker. The intelligence committee members included Reps. Porter Goss and Jane Harman and Sens. Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller.

President Bush publicly revealed the terrorist surveillance program in December 2005, insisting that it was both legal and a necessary tool in the war on terror. But critics have denounced the surveillance as an assault on civil liberties and challenged its legality.

Gonzales said that after Comey objected to reauthorizing undisclosed "intelligence activity," House and Senate leaders from both parties, as well as members of each chamber's intelligence committee, were summoned to the White House for a meeting in the situation room.

"We informed the leadership that Mr. Comey felt the president did not have the authority to authorize these activities, and we were there asking for help, to ask for emergency legislation," Gonzales said.

At the meeting, a consensus developed that "it would be very, very difficult to obtain legislation without compromising this program, but that we should look for a way ahead," he said.

So that evening, Gonzales said he and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card visited Ashcroft in the hospital because "we felt it important that the attorney general knew about the views and the recommendations of the congressional leadership."

Comey, who was in the hospital room that night, previously testified that he thought Card and Gonzales were trying to "take advantage" of an ill Ashcroft. However, Ashcroft refused to overrule Comey's decision.

Pressed by clearly skeptical senators Tuesday, Gonzales asserted several times that the dispute that led to the congressional meeting and the trip to Ashcroft's hospital bed was not over the terrorist surveillance program.

"The disagreement that occurred, and the reason for the visit to the hospital ... was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people," Gonzales said.

"Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?" replied Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee's ranking Republican.

Gonzales' veracity during previous testimony has been called into question by senators, particularly his assertion that there was no internal dissent within the Justice Department over reauthorizing the terrorist surveillance program. Comey testified some top-ranking officials were prepared to resign over the dispute.

Gonzales sought to bolster the credibility of his previous testimony Tuesday by asserting that Comey's objections dealt with other intelligence activities. But because those activities are highly classified, it is impossible to know what they were or what, if any, relationship they might have to the terrorist surveillance program.

- CNN's Terry Frieden and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: Alberto Gonzales
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Where are the other participants? If Gonzales is lying about his reason for meeting with Ashcroft in the hospital... Where is Ashcroft now to testify?

    If Gonzales is lying about a meeting at the White house – which (based on Negroponte's memo) included Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi – Why aren't these individuals being called to testify?

    Seems rather easy. Instead of day after day testimony from Gonzales – get these other parties who were present and get their testimony.

    Or is the another agenda the panel is seeking??

    July 26, 2007 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  2. Pete, T.S. FL

    Ed Wood,

    I don’t know what world you live in, apparently reality is not part of it. Your suggestion that:
    If you do not “support the mission” you cannot possibly by any stretch of the imagination “support the troops” How can you “support the troops” and try to hinder their ability to do their job.
    Is probably one of the most absurd and uneducated statements ever made on this forum. First of all one dead soldier is one too many. Soldiers are human beings and not numbers as you suggest. At Pearl we were attacked by Japan and we responded to Japan. On 9/11 Al Qaeda attacked us and after initially engaging them in Afghanistan we attacked Iraq.
    The job of a great military is not to wage war; the job of the military is to maintain peace through deterrence.
    Maybe you ought to take your “civilian a..” down to the recruiters office and sign up so that the rest of the AMERICAN public can enjoy their FREEDOMS………………………………………….


    July 26, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. MediaJunkie, Washington DC

    At the moment, this has nothing to do with the surveillance program, but the fact that Gonzales has been caught in a lie. And it's not just Dems who aren't happy with Gonzales.

    July 26, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. MCD, San Francisco

    I find it amazing that our AG, the most important person standing for honesty, justice and integrity in our government, can sit there and lie and obstruct.

    But what I find even more amazing is that there apparently are Americans out there who think this is just fine.

    July 26, 2007 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Sue, Midland, MI

    I am just amazed that there are people posting who still believe all this is a Democratic ploy to weaken the USA. Believe me, Bush and Co are doing fine on their own. And I guess you poor Republicans don't care that there is now an executive order banning protests, and that your leader wants total control of all branches in case of an emergency (he gets to say what that is, of course.) Anyone not terrified of this administration needs to do some reading and listening. The Democrats are trying to save this country...and impeachment is the only thing that will do it-by Jan. 2009 Bush may have appointed himself King, and I'll be leaving the country.

    July 26, 2007 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. Robert, Edwards AFB, CA

    Ed Wood: Al Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq before we got there. We have/had no business in that country and need to stop wasting lives and money in it. I don't know of anyone who doesn't support our military being in Afghanistan (going after the people who actually are responsible for attacks against our country), however. Anyone who does is a fool.

    July 26, 2007 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. Steve, Lyons, Colorado

    ED WOOD: If you do not “support the mission” you cannot possibly by any streach of the imagination “support the troops”

    ME: That would be "stretch." And you, sir, are plainly too ignorant to judge anyone.Let me try and explain my support for the troops so you can understand: I support our brave troops, sent REPEATEDLY over to an illegal conflict based on lies and deception by the criminal Bush administration.
    I "support our troops" 'cause I want them back home, not getting killed for Halliburton and oil.
    Get it?
    END ME

    ED WOOD:
    How can you “support the troops” and try to hinder their abillity to do their job.

    ME: A majority of the troops want the troops brought home. THere is no "mission." We're fighting for nothing. Thanks to President Alfred E. Newman and the lies of his traitor and corporate criminal VP Cheney, both cowards who either didn't serve at all in Vietnam (Cheney) or deserted the country club National Guard to work on an Alabama congressman's campaign (Chowderhead), we're stuck in a war with our soldiers dying for an Iraqi constitution that ISN'T EVEN DEMOCRATIC. You see, "Islam" is cited WITHIN THAT CONSTITUTION as being the "ultimate authority." That's a theocracy, not a democracy.
    So...the U.S. is in FAR greater danger than when Howdy Doody started his lies and domestic terrorist campaign against anyone not saluting a man that can't even speak in complete sentences.
    There was no Al Queda in Iraq pre-invasion. Osama bin Laden is still free, laughing his butt off at our Prez Cowboy Moron.
    Bush and his minions have made everything WORSE. Exactly which "mission" are you referring to?
    END ME

    ED WOOD:I am calling you out on that that just don’t jive.

    ME: Now, Ed. You're just confused 'cause you and about 29% of Americans actually think this war is worth fighting.

    Join the rest of the country. Get real.

    July 26, 2007 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Robert, Edwards AFB, CA


    July 26, 2007 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Jeff, Houston, Texas

    To Thnkaboutit:

    I assume you third choice is the emperor's little troll.

    Well, given that list, I have to go with media.

    There should be NOTHING done by our government that is not subject to oversite. If the media is all I have to expose the Bush Crime Syndicate, then I choose "B", unless you are referring to Fox News, which is nothing more than the cheerleading squad for Bush and his thugs.

    July 26, 2007 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Rob, San Diego CA

    Dear Thnkaboutit,

    Apparently the founding father's disagreed with you...

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety" Benjamin Franklin (1759)

    But what did they know, right?

    Keep listening to that Bush rhetoric and we'll all be living in an Orwellian nightmare a la "1984".

    July 26, 2007 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Anonymous, Los Angeles CA

    How many more scandals is it going to take to have the worst and most corrupt President in history get impeached?

    As with Libby...Gonzales does not call the shots. Obviously he just follows orders from the Bush Administration.

    Impeachment is not strong enough a punishment to fit the outrageous level of misconduct and corruption...that makes Nixon seem like a Boy Scout in comparison.

    July 26, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. Ryan, New York, NY

    Ed Wood Pierson MI, it's thick skulled people like yourself that just don't get it. The 3500 troops that you're referring to, don't compare them to the 9/11. Compare the 404 dead in Operation Enduring Freedom. You know, that mission that we never completed, but that we took troops from to fight a 2nd, unrelated war.

    The Iraq war was not related to the 9/11 attacks, though in our actions AFTER Saddam's removal, WE created the link that Bush insisted existed prior. There was, and still is, ZERO evidence that Bin-Laden and Saddam were working together.

    Here's a brief synopsis of what the US did in Iraq:
    Given the inability for all too many in the US to differentiate between Muslim terrorists and Iraqis, the Bush administration was able to go forward with the Iraq War that they'd been planning prior to 9/11. Upon easily wiping out the current regime, as we do have one of the best militaries in the world, especially compared to Iraq's, they created a vaccuum of power. This vaccuum was the ideal new home for foreign terrorists and provided them with a battleground for their war against the US. This shouldn't have come as a surprise, as the best place for terrorists to thrive is in an virtual anarchy. Just look at the rural areas of Pakistan where it's difficult to enforce the law due to terrain and tribal issues. The terrorists should honestly thank us for giving them the gift they needed to expand.

    July 26, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. Ryan, New York, NY

    Thnkaboutit, would you like to mention the credentials of the Politicians and Media for your simplistic comparison? I'm sure they're all fairly equal.

    Take Schumer for instance, Harvard undergrad, Harvard Law, NY Bar admitted, but passed up legal career to enter politics.

    Or Specter, that crazy Republican who goes on principle not party, who did an undergrad at UPenn, then spent 3 years in Korea, then came back and went to Yale Law before becoming the DA of Philly and working on the Warren Commission.

    Yep, no credentials there...

    July 26, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. Mindy Chatsworth, Ca.

    To Ed Wood –

    I have had my fill of people like you always questioning the patriotism and courage and wisdom of Democrats who dare to question and disagree with Bush's reckless and foolish conduct of the war in Iraq. He has created a horrendous nightmare that the next president will have the thankless task of fixing.

    You are confusing responsible alternative solutions to the continuing slaughter of American soldiers whose safety cannot be guaranteed in the current highly charged situation in Iraq. How do you know that if we withdraw our troops in a reasonable manner, that it will be Armageddon? Someone has to do the thinking here and since Bush seems incapable of facing the fact that he has gotten us into a disastrous situation, I think it is important that the opposition party and its candidates continue to speak out forcefully to try to change the course of this administration's incompetent management of this war. That is what we do in a democracy, we voice our disagreement with our government's policies, or have you forgotten what a true democracy is?

    What about the war in Afghanistan, you know the one which was supposed to capture Osama bin Laden? There is mounting evidence that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are growing stronger, while we are stuck in the mess in Iraq. So this president ignored the real threat and fought the wrong war in the wrong country.

    Maybe people like you wish to follow in lockstep with this president and refuse to see the truth. But don't condemn those who are trying to do the decent thing and get our beleaguered troops out of a sectarian civil war that we cannot win. That is what true patriotism is all about.

    July 26, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  15. DJ, Los Angeles CA

    Honestly...I wanted to keep an open mind and hear what Alberto had to say to the Senate panel questions.

    When I saw him testify, listened to how he responded and how angry even fellow Republican Sen. Specter got a him...

    It became glaringly apparent that Gonzales is a complete fraud and not only full of lies, but also was playing dumb and was doing his best to protect the Administration....just as Libby did.

    July 26, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. FPK, Midwest (As in outside the Beltway)

    Please, Senators. Cease and desist from this pompous, santimonious, self-destructive course. You can't meaningfully address the nation's prioity problems, so you set up these self righteous prosecutorial sideshows. I have nothing but contempt for Congress when it comes to this type of exhibitionism.

    July 26, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Marcy Auguste

    If America is not outraged at the antics of Bush, Cheney, Rice and all the other cronies, including Scalia on the Supreme court, then they should be ashamed of themselvs, wake up, sober up, break the bubble they live in and pay attention to what's going on in the world. So many just assume that politicians are corrupt and there's nothing we can do about it. When a democrat screws up in his private life, we impeach him, but when a republican lies about why we are at war, outs a spy working for us because her husband doesn't believe Bush's reason for going to Iraq, and a myriad of other crimes, then we are in trouble. Bill Maher said it best, "when you have a President who doesn't know that the Islamic world consists of Sunni's and Shiite's, that's an impeachable offense."

    July 26, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Ryan ~ Ny, NY,

    You were helping Ed Wood better understand how/why we're in Iraq. You wrote,

    "Here’s a brief synopsis of what the US did in Iraq:
    Given the inability for all too many in the US to differentiate between Muslim terrorists and Iraqis, the Bush administration was able to go forward with the Iraq War that they’d been planning prior to 9/11."

    I think what you have shared is symptomatically wrong with everyone who espouses the Bush-Lie mantra ... claiming the reason we're in Iraq is because the President fabricated some story tying in 9/11. None of that is true!

    The TRUTH is – we were in Afghanistan removing Al Qaeda, it's leaders, and attempting to irradicate terrorists there. Meanwhile (next door) Saddam Hussein decides to kick-out the UN Inspectors and defy the existing UN Resolutions. The UN security council (15 countries including China, France, Russian, and Arab nations) negotiated and eventually passed UN Resolution 1441 which require Saddam to comply with the 10 previous resolutions of disarmament and disclosure of WMDs. EVEN Syria signed on! Saddam refused to comply and created the environment where action had to be taken. The US – along with approx 60 nations contributing to the effort to oust Saddam.

    That's why we are there. Our soldiers are working to eliminate the threat of insurgents, terrorists, and help the Iraq people build a new government and provide safeguards to the innocent.

    At LEAST have an acurate understanding of how we got into Iraq.

    July 26, 2007 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  19. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Ed Wood Pierson MI .. post under the appropriate thread or don't post at all.

    July 26, 2007 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. Leigh

    Ed Wood,

    Get your head out of the sand! I totally support our troops(they do what they're told) but I do not support this unnecessary mission and our government that sent them .....too hard for you to understand? You have the same IQ as Bush then!

    Gonzales is a bald face liar! Period.
    He should be kicked out with the rest of the bums! NOW!

    July 28, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
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