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Gonzales: 'Mistakes Were Made'
"David, I am well thank you," Sampson replied by e-mail on Jan. 10. "You can list the AG as a reference -- not a problem. Good luck!"
On Capitol Hill, a few additional Democrats called for Gonzales to resign, while lawmakers from both parties lined up to castigate the attorney general for his handling of the firings and for a separate revelation last week that the FBI had abused its power to seize personal records of Americans. Senate Republicans also began negotiating with Democrats over legislation to strip Gonzales of his right to avoid Senate oversight by appointing interim prosecutors indefinitely.
Many administration defenders had harsh words for the Justice Department. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) called the department "dysfunctional," while Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said "the appearances are troubling" and criticized Gonzales's handling of the issue.
"Everybody who's appointed by the White House understands that they serve at the pleasure of the president," said Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose home-state prosecutor was among those fired. He added that "a good leader does not just dismiss somebody for no good reason, especially if you haven't done your job in the first place. And I don't feel that the U.S. attorney general's office did their job in the first place."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) last week led the defense of the administration and criticized Lam. But yesterday he said on PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" that "if someone led us astray, they should resign, and I don't care how high it is, anyone involved with this coverup of giving us the truth needs to step down. . . . I am including anybody who would mislead, deliberately mislead the Congress. . . . If it's the attorney general who had a hand in it, then he has to step down."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the first Democrat to call for Gonzales to resign, said the latest revelations show a "breach of trust." He said Sampson's departure increased the pressure on Gonzales to do the same.
"In fact, it raises the temperature. Kyle Sampson will not become the next Scooter Libby, the fall guy," Schumer said, referring to the former vice presidential aide recently convicted of perjury.
Staff writers John Solomon and Peter Baker and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.