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Transcript

Gonzales Testifies Before Senate Panel

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Thursday, April 19, 2007; 6:31 PM

SEN. PATRICK J. LEAHY, D-VT. CHAIRMAN: Good morning.

This week, like all Americans, we join in mourning the tragic killings at Virginia Tech on Monday. The innocent lives of students and -- before we start, I noticed the people holding outside. A lot of people stood in line a long time to be here. This is an important hearing. I would ask the people to be polite enough not to hold up something and block those who have waited in line, waited to hold this hearing.

Certainly, anybody can be here. But I will not allow anyone, no matter what positions they may be taking, to block the view of others who have a legitimate right to be here.

As I said, we join in mourning the tragic killings at Virginia Tech. The innocent lives of students and professors are a terrible loss for their families, friends and their community. It affects us all.

We honor them, we mourn their loss. My family and I hold them in our prayers and our thoughts.

And I expect in the days ahead, as we learn more about what happened how it happened and perhaps why it happened, we'll have debate and discussion, perhaps proposals to consider.

I look forward to working with the Department of Justice, with Regina Schofield, the assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs. The attorney general's offered briefings and others to make improvements that can increase the safety and security of our children and grandchildren in schools and colleges.

Today, the Department of Justice is experiencing a crisis of leadership perhaps unrivalled during its 137-year history. There's a growing scandal swirling around the dismissal and replacement of several prosecutors and persistent efforts to undermine and marginalize career lawyers in the Civil Rights Division and elsewhere in the department.

We hear disturbing reports that politics played a role in a growing number of cases. And I've warned for years against the lack of prosecutorial experience and judgment throughout the leadership ranks of the department.

LEAHY: We're seeing the results amid rising crime and rampant war profiteering, abandonment of civil rights and voting rights enforcement efforts, and lack of accountability. I fear the Justice Department may be losing its way.

The Department of Justice should never be reduced to another political arm of the White House -- this White House or any White House. The Department of Justice must be worthy of its name. The trust and confidence of the American people in federal law enforcement must be restored.

Since Attorney General Gonzales last appeared before this committee on January 18th, we've heard sworn testimony from the former U.S. attorneys forced from office and from his former chief of staff.


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