Bipartisan Concern With Gonzales Over US Attorneys

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 13, 2007 1:13pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy appeared this morning with Texas Republican John Cornyn, vice chairman of the ethics committee, at a press conference on Capitol Hill about, oddly enough, a bipartisan bill that would promote "open government" and set time limits for FOIA requests, among other things.

But the topic of the day is not open government, it’s the secrecy surrounding the firing of 8 US Attorneys late last year. And it’s entirely partisan.

So there was a bit of serendipity in having the Democratic Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Republican Vice Chairman of the Ethics committee on the same dais with cameras rolling.

It was particularly interesting to see Cornyn, who is generally considered one of the White House’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill when it comes to judicial nominees and the treatment of terror suspects, say he is "concerned" about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Cornyn said that he has known the Attorney General for a long time and trusts and respects Gonzales, so he wants to let him have the chance to explain himself.

"In Texas, we have a fair trial and then the hanging," said Cornyn, who like Gonzales, sat on the Texas Supreme Court.

Cornyn cautioned that, "This has to be a fair examination. It should not be partisan. I support Senator Leahy in his efforts to get the facts."

Cornyn, speaking as the vice chair of the Senate Ethics Committee said that while he could not confirm that a complaint has been lodged against New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici about his involvement with the firing of former New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias, but did confirm that "there is a process" in these types of matters and it is being followed.

On the ethics matter Leahy would not say anything about Domenici or New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather Wilson, who also admits to calling Iglesias.

But when it came to Gonzales, Leahy had plenty to say. "I talked with the Attorney General this morning," Leahy said calmly about a reported verbal confrontation between the two this morning.

He said he had brought up the Gonzales that there had been Congressional hearings on this matter, but it was through the newspaper that he learned about the White House connection. "I just about boiled over as I read in the paper information we should have been told, information we could have been told." Leahy said, his temperature rising.

Leahy said he’s had closed briefings on this and has not gotten the full story, so now he will have hearings and they will be under oath. Leahy would not specifically say he will subpoena anyone to the hearings (he hopes they will testify willingly, but he wants to hear from former White House Chief Counsel Harriet Miers, former Gonzales Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, and perhaps White House political guru Karl Rove.

After the presser, Leahy told reporters about seeing Gonzales this morning, "I told him I was angry, that there will be hearings, and they will be under oath."

He would not say he will subpoena Rove or Miers, although he did address the possibility that those two could be shielded by the White House from testifying as a matter of executive privilege, "There is really only one person who gets executive privilege: the President."

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