Republican Support for Gonzales Erodes
Saturday, March 17, 2007; 6:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- The White House dropped its contention Friday that former Counsel Harriet Miers first raised the idea of firing U.S. attorneys, blaming "hazy memories" as e-mails shed new light on Karl Rove's role. Support eroded further for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Presidential press secretary Tony Snow previously had asserted Miers was the person who came up with the idea, but he said Friday, "I don't want to try to vouch for origination." He said, "At this juncture, people have hazy memories."
The White House also said it needed more time before deciding whether Miers, political strategist Rove and other presidential advisers would testify before Congress and whether the White House would release documents to lawmakers.
"Given the importance of the issues under consideration and the presidential principles involved, we need more time to resolve them," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. She said White House Counsel Fred Fielding suggested to the House Judiciary Committee that he get back to members on Tuesday.
Fielding called a staff member of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday afternoon, saying he needed to clear the White House's position with Bush, according to an official who works for the panel. That official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the conversation had been private.
After receiving word of the delay, committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said his panel would vote next week on subpoenas for Rove, Miers and other officials.
Snow's comments came hours after the Justice Department released e-mails Thursday night pulling the White House deeper into an intensifying investigation into whether eight firings were a purge of prosecutors deemed unenthusiastic about presidential goals.
Snow said it was not immediately clear who first floated the more dramatic idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys shortly after President Bush was re-elected to a second term.
"This is as far as we can go: We know that Karl recollects Harriet having raised it and his recollection is that he dismissed it as not a good idea," Snow told reporters. "That's what we know. We don't know motivations. ... I don't think it's safe to go any further than that."
Asked if Bush himself might have suggested the firings, Snow said, "Anything's possible ... but I don't think so." He said Bush "certainly has no recollection of any such thing. I can't speak for the attorney general."
"I want you to be clear here: Don't be dropping it at the president's door," Snow said.
Subpoenas demanding testimony from White House officials could come next week.