Immediately following Alberto Gonzales' now famous March 13 press conference, during which Gonzales accepted full responsibility for (while expressing total ignorance of) the U.S. attorney firings, the White House said that Gonzales would soon be making the trek to Capitol Hill to explain himself.
The next day, Bush said that he'd talked to Gonzales "about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, making very clear about the facts.â Tony Snow added soon after: "the attorney general, I think, is going to be doing some outreach to members of Congress to explain what went on."
But that outreach never occurred. And when the Senate Judiciary Committee finally scheduled Gonzales' testimony, the two parties agreed on April 17, a full month after Gonzales' press conference. Chairman Pat Leahy says that the committee wanted an earlier date, but Gonzales objected.
That was before Kyle Sampson testified.
Now, the administration has suddenly realized that postponing Gonzales' testimony only feeds the fire. Now, Gonzales can't testify soon enough. Gonzales had a Justice Department official ask for an earlier hearing date. And White House counselor Dan Bartlett hit the airwaves this Sunday to say, "Let's move it up and let's get the facts.... Let's have the attorney general there sooner rather than later."
But the Democrats are just fine with the way things are.
That's because in the meantime, staffers for the House and Senate judiciary committees will be conducting private interviews with seven Justice Department officials involved in the purge. And when Gonzales appears before the committee, senators will be armed with transcripts from those interviews to check the AG's story. Says Leahy: "We're, in effect, interrogating a number of people leading up to it... The 17th is now the timeâ¦. It's the date the hearing will take place."
Given Gonzales' penchant for memory lapses, it'll be handy for the senators to know just what he's forgetting.