In Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT) letter
to the White House today was a bit of news. A bit of bad news for Alberto Gonzales.
According to Sen. Leahy, Kyle Sampson has told congressional investigators that when Alberto Gonzales finally nixed the plan to permanently install Karl Rove's former aide as a U.S. attorney without Senate confirmation, Rove's senior aide Sara Taylor was "upset." And according to Sampson's testimony, Gonzales didn't say no until late in the game -- when the U.S. attorney firings controversy was already gaining steam. That's not what Gonzales told Congress.
When Gonzales testified before the Senate last month, he claimed that he'd always
rejected the idea of using a Patriot Act provision to appoint handpicked U.S. attorneys and keep them in place indefinitely without Senate confirmation as "interim" U.S. attorneys. In a December 19, 2006 email
to the White House, Kyle Sampson had specifically advocated using the provision to install Timothy Griffin, Rove's former aide who was installed as the U.S. attorney for Little Rock, over the objections of the state's two Democratic senators. But Gonzales said that he'd never seen that email and he'd never considered Sampson's plan. "I didn't consider it and wouldn't consider it," Gonzales testified.
That was at odds with Sampson's earlier testimony before the Senate, where he'd said that Gonzales had not rejected the idea until late December or early January.
And in today's letter to the White House, Leahy adds more detail to Sampson's story. According to Leahy, Sampson told congressional investigators that Karl Rove's senior aide Sara Taylor "was upset when the Attorney General finally ârejectedâ this use of the interim authority" (Taylor resigned in late March). Leahy notes that this decision to reject the plan was a month after Gonzales had told Sen. Mark Pryor (R-AR) in a private conversation that he was committed to finding a Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney.
There' something key to note about this, and that's that Sen. Pryor's phone call with Gonzales was December 15th. The U.S. attorney firings scandal was taking its first steps in mid-January, but Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinsteni (D-CA) wrote a letter to Gonzales expressing concerns about the firings as early as January 9th. So it looks from Sampson's testimony like Gonzales only rejected the plan when members of Congress started asking questions.