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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Senate Democrats ask for special counsel to probe possible Gonzales perjury
Michael Sung at 12:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement [official website] Thursday asking Clement to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "may have misled Congress or perjured himself in testimony before Congress." The letter follows reports [AP report] that a 2006 memorandum from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) [official website] appears to contradict Gonzales' Tuesday testimony [transcript] before the committee that a March 10, 2004 meeting between administration officials and eight Congressional leaders did not focus on the reauthorization of the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. Gonzales has said that the meeting concerned another intelligence program, which he refused to elaborate on, and that then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey [official profile] issued reservations reauthorizing this unspecified intelligence program and not the domestic surveillance program as widely reported. Gonzales also testified that there was a "consensus" among the congressional leaders that the intelligence activities should continue despite reservations from Comey. The DNI memorandum, sent to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in May 2006, outlines briefings given on the domestic surveillance program, and includes the March 2004 meeting as an occasion where congressional leaders were informed about the surveillance program. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sent a separate letter [text] to Gonzales Thursday asking him to review the transcript of Tuesday's hearing and "mark any changes you wish to make to correct, clarify or supplement your answers so that, consistent with your oath, they are the whole truth."

On Tuesday, Gonzales denied [JURIST report] pressuring then-Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile] while Gonzales served as White House Counsel to give the Department of Justice's reauthorization of the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] while Ashcroft was hospitalized. In May, Comey testified [transcript, PDF] that Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card [official profile], in response to Comey's reservations about re-certifying the program, attempted to pressure Ashcroft [JURIST report] at his hospital bed in March 2004. Comey, who was acting attorney general because of Ashcroft's hospitalization, said that Ashcroft refused to authorize the program because he was without the powers of the attorney general and referred White House officials to Comey. AP has more.

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