The New York Times and Los Angeles Timeslead with the revelation that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was more involved in the discussions that resulted in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys than he had previously acknowledged. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, told the Senate judiciary committee that the attorney general's previous comments had been inaccurate.
The Washington Postleads with news that President Bush invited the entire House GOP caucus to the White House for the first time in his presidency on the same day the Senate passed its $122 billion war spending bill with a 51-47 vote. The Wall Street Journal also mentions the Senate bill in the top spot of its newsbox but leads with yesterday's bombings in and around Baghdad that killed at least 132 people in predominantly Shiite areas (the LAT is the only other paper that fronts the news). USA Todayleads with word that more than 60 law enforcement agencies are seeking training from the federal government in order to have the power to arrest illegal immigrants. Many of those who want the training are from smaller cities and towns that have recently seen an increase in their illegal-immigrant population.
Responding to questions during the almost seven-hour session, Sampson said he discussed the plan to remove the prosecutors with the attorney general on "at least five" occasions. Sampson also confirmed that the attorney general was present at a meeting in November when senior officials signed off on the firings. Although Sampson testified that Gonzales knew which prosecutors were being considered for the firings, he insisted the attorney general was not involved in adding or subtracting names from the list. But ultimately, "the decision-makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president," Sampson said in reference to Harriet Miers, who was White House counsel at the time.
Sampson also acknowledged that David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney of New Mexico, wasn't added to the list until shortly before the November elections and after Karl Rove complained to Gonzales about him. This was right around the time when two Republican lawmakers were also expressing that they weren't happy with Iglesias and his handling of a public corruption investigation that dealt with Democrats.
Senators also raised questions about whether Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, was fired as a result of her investigation into a former Republican lawmaker. Sampson denied there was any connection and said, "the real problem at that time was her office's prosecution of immigration cases." But Sampson acknowledged that, as far as he knew, no one at the Justice Department had complained to Lam about this before she was fired. There was also much back-and-forth about Sampson's proposal to include Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, in the dismissal list. Sampson insisted he came up with the idea on his own and the White House's lawyers immediately shot it down.
All of this, of course, increases the troubles for the attorney general, who is scheduled to face Congress April 17. The WSJ emphasizes this angle and says the White House might encourage Gonzales to clarify his role in the firings before he testifies. "Three weeks is a long time," a White House spokeswoman said. (As of yesterday afternoon, Slate's Gonzo-Meter put the chances of Gonzales leaving at 85 percent).
By standing with the Republicans as he, once again, promised to use his veto pen, Bush was attempting to show that he's not politically isolated as he gears up for a fight with Democrats. As the Post points out, this move is right out of the Clinton playbook. On the day Clinton was impeached in 1998, he gathered the entire House Democratic caucus to show that he still had support.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders also did their best to emphasize their unity. But as the LAT notes in a Page One story, reconciling the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill may bring some conflicts to the forefront. The House includes a stricter timeline than the Senate, and some lawmakers might not approve of any compromises that could be reached. Some House members have threatened to remove their support if the final bill does not contain a strict timeline, while some in the Senate have insisted they can't vote for a bill that includes a firm deadline. Democrats will also have to reconcile any differences in the money for domestic issues that is included in each bill. The NYT publishes a helpful chart by the president of a nonprofit group detailing "some of the most egregious earmarks" in the bills.
The surge of violence in Iraq was quite the welcome for the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, who was sworn in yesterday. Crocker recognized that the road ahead would be difficult but emphasized that "if I thought it was impossible, I would not be standing here today." Making matters worse, the complications in Iraq are not only because of bombings and assassinations, it also seems there is a resurgence of sectarian evictions, as the NYT details in a good Page One story. When the new security plan came into place, the evictions seemed to largely stop, but those on the ground say they have started back up again this month.
Well, that's a relief… The LAT's Joel Stein reveals that he was offered a role in a soft-core production (apparently, the show's producer thought he was "good looking"). In a move that will be disappointing to maybe two people, Stein ultimately declined.