“Today the Department of Justice is experiencing a crisis of leadership perhaps unrivaled during its 137-year history,” said the Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There’s a growing scandal swirling around the dismissal” of prosecutors, he added.
Sen. Arlen Specter offered no more comfort in his opening remarks.
He said the purpose of the hearing was to determine whether the committee believes that Gonzales should remain in office. “As I see it, you come to this hearing with a very heavy burden of proof,” Specter said as Gonzales listened intently, lips pursed, a few feet away.
“This is not a game of gotcha,” said Specter. In a reflection of the stakes, he told the attorney general he faced the equivalent of a “reconfirmation hearing.”
Urged in advance by Republicans to clear up any inconsistencies, Gonzales spoke at times in careful, lawyerly terms. “I now understand there was a conversation with myself and the president,” he said at one point.