Former Gonzales Aide To Testify In Senate Probe Of Prosecutor Firings
Friday, March 23rd 2007, 1:36 pm
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed Friday to testify at a Senate inquiry next week into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
Kyle Sampson, who resigned last week amid the furor over the dismissals, will appear Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his attorney said. His appearance will mark the first congressional testimony by a Justice Department aide since the release of thousands of documents that show the firings were orchestrated, in part, by the White House.
Sampson ``looks forward to answering the committee's questions,'' wrote his attorney, Brad Berenson, in a two-paragraph letter to Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
``We trust that his decision to do so will satisfy the need of the Congress to obtain information from him concerning the requested resignations of the United States attorneys,'' Berenson wrote.
E-mails between the White House and the Justice Department, dating back to the weeks immediately after the 2004 presidential election, show Sampson was heavily engaged in deciding how many prosecutors would be replaced, and which ones. The Bush administration maintains the dismissals of the eight political appointees were proper.
Democrats, however, question whether the eight were selected because they were not seen as, in Sampson's words, ``loyal Bushies.''
``He was right at the center of things,'' Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading the inquiry into the firings, said of Sampson. ``He has said publicly that what others have said is not how it happened. ... He contradicts DOJ.''
Schumer said he hoped Sampson would provide more detail about who initiated the firings and whether they were politically motivated.
Sampson's agreement to testify next week came a few hours after Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, summoned White House counsel Fred Fielding to Capitol Hill to discuss the dispute over whether and under what conditions Bush's top aides will tell their stories to Congress.
The two did not delve into specific proposals for Bush's aides, but Cornyn said he urged Fielding to release as much information related to the prosecutor firings as possible, warning that he wanted ``no surprises'' to emerge.
``I told him, 'Everything you can release, please release. We need to know what the facts are,''' Cornyn said.
Also Friday, the Justice Department said it had found additional e-mails, calendar pages and other documents about the dismissals and were working to send them to the House and Senate panels that oversee the Justice Department. It was unclear when those documents would be delivered.