April 20, 2007

Senators Aim Stiff Criticism At Gonzales

Unsparing lawmakers question the attorney general's credibility as he minimizes his role in prosecutors' firings.
Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, told by President Bush to repair relations with Congress over his handling of the U.S. attorneys affair, instead suffered new and withering criticism from senators of both parties Thursday, including questions about his judgment, candor and fitness to serve.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in what one lawmaker called a "reconfirmation hearing," Gonzales apologized for what he described as a flawed process in which a group of young political appointees at the Justice Department led a review that resulted in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

But his credibility took a fresh hit when he tried to downplay his involvement in the dismissals even as documents and testimony from top aides in recent weeks have shown that he played a central role. His inability to recall basic facts at the hearing — he answered "I don't recall" more than 50 times — also often baffled and bewildered lawmakers.

"Your characterization of your participation is significantly, if not totally, at variance with the facts," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking Republican on the committee.

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