The Page One article incorrectly said that Angela Williamson no longer works at the Justice Department.
Justice Dept. Probing Whether Gonzales Lied
Friday, August 31, 2007
The Justice Department's inspector general indicated yesterday that he is investigating whether departing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales gave false or misleading testimony to Congress, including whether he lied under oath about warrantless surveillance and the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The disclosure by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine in a letter to Congress signals an expansion of the department's internal investigations into Gonzales's troubled tenure, probes that were not previously known to be focused so sharply on the attorney general and his testimony.
Fine's office has also separately expanded a probe into whether senior Gonzales aides improperly considered partisan affiliations when reviewing applicants for nonpolitical career positions. As part of that inquiry, Fine sent hundreds of questionnaires in the past week to former Justice Department job applicants.
In the questionnaires, Fine asks applicants whether they were quizzed by political appointees about their party affiliation, favorite politicians and judges, voting history, campaign contributions, and views on the death penalty and terrorism, according to a copy of the Aug. 24 questionnaire obtained by The Washington Post. Recipients are also asked to say whether White House aides participated in the interviews and to confirm if they were asked "what kind of conservative you were (law and order; social; fiscal)."
Gonzales announced his resignation Monday after seven months of sustained conflict with Congress over the prosecutor dismissals and other issues, telling aides that his credibility with lawmakers had been too damaged for him to continue. Democrats and some Republicans had urged him to resign amid allegations that he and his aides repeatedly let political considerations taint the law enforcement mission at Justice.
The scope and pace of the investigations suggest that public attention on Gonzales will probably continue long after he leaves his job on Sept. 17. But officials declined yesterday to say whether Fine's expanding investigations played a role in the attorney general's resignation.
Gonzales had said as recently as late July that he was intent on staying on the job to "fix the problems" at Justice. But his contradictory or murky congressional testimony, including his repeated assertions that he could not recall key events related to the firings, prompted several Senate Democrats to call on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to consider perjury charges against him.
Fine, in a letter yesterday to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), said his office "has ongoing investigations" related to Gonzales's testimony on several key issues, including the prosecutor firings and allegations of improper hiring practices, the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, the FBI's use of national security letters, and Gonzales's characterizations of his conversation with an aide before a House hearing.
Fine had previously confirmed that he was looking at whether Gonzales tried to improperly influence potential testimony by talking about the prosecutor firings with the aide, former senior counselor and White House liaison Monica M. Goodling.
Goodling testified in May that she had "crossed the line" by considering political criteria in hiring career professionals at Justice, including looking up political donations by some applicants. She and D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's former chief of staff, also admitted using such criteria in the appointment of administrative immigration judges, who are considered career employees.
Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that questions about Gonzales's testimony had "eroded the public's trust and undermined morale" at Justice. "The current Attorney General is leaving, but these questions remain," he said. "It is appropriate that the Inspector General will examine whether the Attorney General was honest with this and other Congressional committees about these crucial issues."