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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Alberto Gonzales went back and forth in the most heated exchange of the hearing so far.
Schumer began on the question of whether U.S. Attorney for San Diego Carol Lam had been told that there was a problem with her immigration enforcement numbers. That supposedly was the main reason for her firing.
Gonzales hedged the question, saying that Lam must have known that there was âinterestâ in and âconcernâ with her immigration performance. Members of Congress, Gonzales said, had complained about Lamâs performance. Gonzales allowed that she âmay not have been told that if there is no change in policy, there will be a change,â but seemed to think that was an unimportant distinction.
Schumer pressed, citing the testimony of both Carol Lam and Kyle Sampson that Lam had never been told that she should change her officeâs approach to immigration enforcement. And he took issue with the idea that the department would let members of Congress be representatives of the Justice Department.
The second half of Schumerâs testimony was even more contentious.
Gonzalesâ former chief of staff Kyle Sampson testified last month that Gonzales did not reject the idea of circumventing the Senate until after Gonzales spoke with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) about Tim Griffin in mid-December. Sampson said that heâd discussed the idea with Gonzales before, that Gonzales didnât seem to like the idea (not clear how he got that impression), but that Gonzales didnât reject it outright.
But in his testimony today, Gonzales has said that he rejected the plan and never considered it. Despite that, Sampson consistently pushed that plan â first in an email in September, and then in a detailed email to the White House in December. Schumer was incredulous at Gonzalesâ explanation that heâd rejected the plan all along. If Gonzales really had rejected the idea, than that means that Sampson was advocating the plan behind Gonzalesâ back. Whoâs running the Justice Department? Schumer wanted to know.