Leahy: AG Has One Week To Fix Testimony

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 24, 2007, prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his role in the U.S. attorney firings.
AP Photo/Dennis Cook

Alberto Gonzales is being given a week to correct his testimony about the Bush administration's wiretapping activities, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday on Face The Nation.

"He has a week to correct it if he wants," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said. "If he doesn't correct it, then I think that there are so many errors in there that the pressure will be very, very heavy, whether it's a special prosecutor, special counsel efforts within the – within the Congress."

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly and emphatically said the president's secret warrantless domestic spying program was not the subject of internal disagreement in 2004 within the Bush administration. But FBI Director Robert Mueller, appearing Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, said it was.

Now Senate Democrats are calling for a perjury investigation, claiming Gonzales has, "at a minimum," provided "half-truths and misleading statements" in testimony to Congress, most recently over secret surveillance. The Bush administration says it still supports Gonzales and that his testimony didn't contradict Mueller's.

Four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the solicitor general to appoint a special counsel to investigate.

"The irony is though, the Department of Justice, which is supposed to be very impartial – it's supposed to be impartial to law enforcement – is being shredded by his activities," Leahy said. "And if you lose confidence in law enforcement, it hurts everybody all the way down to the cop on the beat."

The ranking Republican on the Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, told Bob Schieffer that Gonzales should be given a change to set the record straight before a perjury investigation goes ahead.

"What we want to do is find out what the facts are so that we can formulate public policy and legislation and get the Department of Justice back on its feet," Specter said. "I think it's premature, until he's had a chance to review the record and supplement his answers."

But this controversy, Specter said, resonates throughout the country because it goes to the core of the integrity of the justice system, and he said it is time for Gonzales to step aside.

"There's no doubt, as I have said repeatedly for months now, that the Department of Justice would be much better off without him," he said.

However the Senator did not join the New York Times which said in an editorial on Sunday that Congress should consider impeaching Gonzales.

The problem cannot be completely solved, Leahy said, by President Bush firing Gonzales.

"Well, many of us said he should fire the attorney general, but I think it's more than that," Leahy said. "I think he has to state, 'We have made' — we, the administration – 'made some bad mistakes in saying we're above the law.' Nobody's above the law. The president's not above the law. You're not, I'm not. And it's got to go back to the rule of law."