Senators Propose Testimony Compromise

SCHUMER SPECTER FACE THE NATION
CBS
The White House and the Senate are deadlocked over the Congressional testimony of top administration officials in scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorney's, but two top Senators may have reached a compromise on Face The Nation. A top administration official, however, questioned the Senators' motives.

"There's a real basis for an agreement here, which is to have Rove, Miers, other White House people come in with a transcript – you have to have a transcript – but privately, at first," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "As for the oath, I think it's better to have an oath. But as many have pointed out, there are statutes that say you have to tell the truth anyway."

Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said later, "I think that Chuck Schumer and I may have come to agreement here ... on a very important issue — and that is the way to get the White House officials coming up."

"I believe that the transcript is indispensable, because if you don't have a transcript, you will walk out of the meeting and senators will, in perfectly good faith, have disagreements, so it's got to be in writing," Specter said.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Schumer and Specter were trying to "cobble together a proposal through sound bites on a Sunday show. What we have in writing from them is far different than that type of proposal."

"If you look at the formal request they've made to the White House, they are asking for documents that we feel that go to executive privilege, they're asking for--to have an open-ended commitment," Bartlett said.

Since allegations arose that the eight U.S. Attorneys were terminated for political reasons – as opposed to the performance issues cited by the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have called for Gonzales's resignation.

On Thursday, Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Congress his former boss was involved in the firings — despite claims by the Attorney General that he was not involved. The next day, Gonzales said he did not recall discussions over the U.S. Attorneys in question.

Gonzales on Friday sought to explain weeks of inconsistencies about how closely involved he had been in decisions to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys. He said he had been aware his staff was drawing up plans for the firings but did not recall taking part in discussions over which people would actually be told to go.

"I believe in truth and accountability, and every step that I've taken is consistent with that principle," Gonzales said in Boston. "At the end of the day, I know what I did. And I know that the motivations for the decisions that I made were not based upon improper reasons."

Asked why he had not resigned, as some Democrats and Republicans have demanded, he said: "I am fighting for the truth."

Gonzales will face the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 17. Schumer said Gonzales's reputation has been so damaged, he isn't sure the Attorney General can continue to be effective.

"There are so many misstatements out there and so many contradictions that whatever happens in his testimony, I don't think he can continue as Attorney General," he said.

"I think he has to explain what he did when he said he wasn't involved in any discussions," Specter said, "I believe he's entitled to a so-called day in court."

Specter said that if the attorney general has reason to apologize to the American people, he should.

Meanwhile, Bartlett accused Democrats of trying to drag out the scandal by waiting several weeks for Gonzales to testify before the committee.

"Nothing has emerged in this testimony or in the documents that have been released that any sort of political or wrongdoing has taken place ... I think it makes you ask the question what the Democrats are really up to," he said.