Posts Tagged ‘Alberto Gonzales’
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Nearly two dozen prominent former members of the George W. Bush administration are asking their friends to contribute to ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s legal defense fund.

“Our nation is better and safer because of the service of Alberto Gonzales,” reads the letter, signed by ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other luminaries. “The harsh campaign conducted against him by some Congressional Democrats and by liberal interest groups was disgraceful and unfair.”

Gonzales resigned in 2007 amid political fallout from the firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006 for what many of the cashiered prosecutors and congressional investigators said were political reasons. Gonzales also came under criticism for his vague testimony in the matter before Congress, which his critics said came close to perjury.

A special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, concluded that although the firings were “contrary to DOJ principle,” they did not impede investigations into voter fraud and public integrity cases. She found there was no reason to prosecute.

The letter said former President Bush and his wife, Laura, have made contributions. A donation “will show you will stand with those who so honorably served America when they are attacked for that service,” the letter said.

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote in an Op-ed commentary published on Friday by the Washington Post that he opposes revising the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to address concerns about the immigration process.

Alberto Gonzales (Getty)

Gonzales, who is a descendant of Mexican immigrants and a former Texas State Supreme Court judge, had a tumultuous tenure at the helm of the U.S. Justice Department under former President George W. Bush.

In his Op-ed article he wrote that Congress should pass “comprehensive immigration legislation” to keep illegal immigrants from settling in the United States, instead of rewriting the amendment.”

The amendment to the Constitution says , “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Gonzales’ views seemed to put him at odds with conservatives have called for a change in the amendment in an effort to keep undocumented women from coming to the United States to bear children, who would become U.S. citizens.

Changes to the Constitution require the approval of legislatures in three-fourths of the states or ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states.

“Based on principles from my tenure as a judge, I think constitutional amendments should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances that we cannot address effectively through legislation or regulation,” Gonzales wrote in the article scheduled for publication by the Post on Sunday, which was published on Friday in the paper’s online edition.

“Because most undocumented workers come here to provide for themselves and their families, a constitutional amendment will not solve our immigration crisis,” Gonzales said. “People will certainly continue to cross our borders to find a better life, irrespective of the possibilities of U.S. citizenship.”

The former Attorney General wrote that immigration legislation should bolster national security and the economy. He also said that legislation should include a strong temporary-worker program that would help employers hire foreign workers for jobs that U.S. citizens do not want or cannot be filled by Americans alone.

Gonzales wrote that the any immigration legislation has to be “practical, enforceable and capable of effective implementation without enormous delays or large numbers of mistakes.”

“As our nation’s first Hispanic attorney general, I have seen both the beauty of our tradition of immigration as well as the threats that come with a broken system,” Gonzales wrote. “We need to fix the process.”

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Nora Dannehy was named by then-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the U.S. Attorney firings. (Getty Images)

Justice Department officials said Wednesday that Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy has concluded that no criminal charges are warranted in connection with the Bush administration’s firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Dannehy, then-acting U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, in September 2008 as a special prosecutor to look into the firings, particularly that of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

Dannehy also was tasked with determining whether White House or DOJ officials made false statements to Congress or to the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, which also investigated the dismissals.

Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich disclosed Dannehy’s findings in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) dated Wednesday.

“Evidence did not demonstrate that any prosecutable criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of David Iglesias,” Weich wrote in the letter. “The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias.”

Justice Department officials said Wednesday that the probe is now closed. The inquiry focused on Iglesias and the findings outlined in the letter related to the investigation of his dismissal, they said. No wider investigation was determined to be necessary.

According to Weich, Dannehy and her investigative team concluded that DOJ leadership never made a determination as to whether complaints about Iglesias were legitimate.

“While the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended to and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case,” Weich said.

The investigation also found that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Kyle Sampson, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff, “knowingly made material false statements to OIG/OPR or Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice.”

Reached by Main Justice Wednesday, Gonzales said he had not yet reviewed the letter, but had heard the result of the investigation. He declined to comment until he had an opportunity to review the letter himself.

In an interview with Main Justice last month, Gonzales said he hoped the investigation would wrap up soon. He also said he needed to raise additional money to cover his legal bills related to the matter.

“We need to do a better effort raising additional money, and so we’re going to try to do that as soon as the last investigation [ends],” said Gonzales. “That investigation has been out there going on forever. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but we’re waiting for that to be completed. And once that’s completed — I have confidence that again [there was] no wrong-doing by me — that will again raise some interest in raising additional money.”

UPDATE:

Conyers said in a statement that it was clear that Dannehy’s decision not to bring criminal charges “is not an exoneration of Bush officials in the U.S. Attorney matter as there is no dispute that these firings were totally improper and that misleading testimony was given to Congress in an effort to cover them up.”

He also pointed out that the probe “did not conclude that administration officials testified truthfully to Congress,” only that there was insufficient evidence to show they knowingly made false statement.

“I appreciate Attorney General Holder’s commitment to ensure that such conduct will not happen again,” Conyers said. “I am proud of the committee’s effort to bring the facts of this controversy to light, so that the American people themselves can judge the how Bush Justice Department abused our trust.”

UPDATE:

Gonzales’ lawyer, former Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger III, said the Justice Department’s conclusion was long overdue.

“Those who made unwarranted allegations to the contrary owe him an apology,” said Terwilliger, a partner with White & Case LLP. “After having spent months cooperating with inquiries that produced no evidence of his wrongdoing, Judge Gonzales is pleased to be free to resume a career marked to date by service to the public.”

Conyers.Dannehy.OLA

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fresh off his first academic year as a visiting professor and administrator at Texas Tech University, told Main Justice Thursday that he is glad to be back in “Bush country,” and said he has enjoyed the teaching experience.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (Agência Brasil, Creative Commons license).

Gonzales also said he has made a lot of progress on a book about his experiences in the White House and the Justice Department, but has not yet found a publisher.

“It’s good to be back in Texas. This part of the state is very much Bush country. They are very pro-military, and very appreciative of what the Bush administration did in securing our safety, so you know it’s been a very good experience,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said his family is leasing a home in Lubbock, Texas, because they were unable to sell their McLean, Va., home, which they are now renting out. He indicated he hopes to return to Texas Tech next semester and is in talks with the university about coming back for a second year. He has been teaching a course called “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch.”

“We’re in discussions right now about doing it again for another year,” Gonzales said. “I really have enjoyed my experience here, and I think I’ve contributed to the Tech mission. I think the students have enjoyed my presence here, and you know it’s been a good experience. So yeah, it’s something that I’m looking very seriously at, and we’ll see what happens.”

Gonzales, 54, was serving as White House counsel when President George W. Bush nominated him to be the 80th Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales was sworn in on Feb. 14, 2005, and announced his resignation on Aug. 27, 2007.

Gonzales’ tenure as Attorney General was one of the most tumultuous in recent memory. Democrats and some Republicans in Congress rebuked him for inept and disengaged management of the Justice Department and his harshest critics said Gonzales had allowed the agency to become little more than a political arm of the White House under his stewardship.

The criticism ignited into a furor of complaint after the December 2006 dismissal of seven U.S. Attorneys came to light. Nine prosecutors were eventually fired, leading to congressional hearings exploring the rationale for their removal, which in some cases seemed to have been carried out primarily to make room for political favorites.

Gonzales’s testimony left lawmakers expressing doubts about his ability to manage the Justice Department, and led to his resignation. A Justice Department Inspector General report found that the dismissal process had been “fundamentally flawed.”

After reportedly having trouble finding a job at a law firm, Gonzales was hired by Texas Tech last summer at a reported salary of $100,000 a year. Gonzales said he also continues to give paid speeches and take consulting jobs.

He is also working on a memoir. So far, Gonzales has written about 12 chapters of what he expects will be a 20-chapter book. While Gonzales said he thinks there will be interest in his biography, he hasn’t yet found a publisher.

“Given all the decisions that I was a part of, the decisions I witnessed, and the decisions I made, I think it will be something that will be of interest and I hope it will be a useful contribution to the historic record of the Bush legacy,” Gonzales said.

In compiling his book, which will also cover his work on the state level with then-Gov. Bush in Texas, Gonzales said he looked back at “a few, but not many” notes he kept during his time in the Justice Department and at the White House.

“A lot of the things that I worked on were classified and of that nature, so I’ve had to be careful about that. But I’ve been looking at articles, trying to reconstruct my schedule, things of that nature,” Gonzales said.

“And of course there were many things, significant events, that I remember, that I just know about, that I can just write about,” added Gonzales, who played a role in many of the administration’s most controversial policy and law enforcement decisions including warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens, waterboarding of terrorism suspects, and the invasion of Iraq.

“Writing is a difficult thing …  and sometimes I get tired of it,” he continued. “But I enjoy it because it reminds me again of the challenges we had to face, and it just reconfirms in my mind all the good things we did for our country.”

Gonzales also said he needs to raise additional funds to cover his extensive legal bills. Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed then-acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy of Connecticut in September 2008 as a special prosecutor to look into the U.S. Attorney firings. That investigation remains ongoing.

The official portrait of Alberto Gonzales on the fifth floor of the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department building (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

“We need to do a better effort raising additional money, and so we’re going to try to do that as soon as the last investigation [ends],” said Gonzales. “That investigation has been out there going on forever. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but we’re waiting for that to be completed. And once that’s completed — I have confidence that again [there was] no wrong-doing by me — that will again raise some interest in raising additional money.”

He wouldn’t say if he thought the investigation had gone on for too long. “All I will say is that I wish it would get wrapped up,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said his students are very interested about his time in Washington.

“We talk about Guantanamo, we talk about surveillance, we talk about choosing Supreme Court Justices, we talk about how the White House deals with scandal or crisis,” he said.

Gonzales didn’t give the 15 students in his “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch”class an exam. Instead, he had each student make a presentation and write a paper about issues discussed in the class. “I try to encourage very candid discussions, and personal interaction with students is very important for me, so it’s been a good experience.”

Gonzales also said he’s proud of his work to increase diversity at Texas Tech.

“The administration here is very focused on increasing the diversity of the student body, which is one of the reasons I came here. It’s something that I have always viewed as important,” Gonzales said. “They began an initiative to try to attract more first generation students, whatever your skin color. If you’re the first person to go to college in your family, we want to have you.”

While Bush called him when he started his job at Texas Tech, Gonzales said he hasn’t spoken with the former president in several months.

“The last time I spoke with him, he said he’s doing fine,” Gonzales said. “There’s a period of decompression, I’m sure even more so for someone like him. You look back and you take pride in your service, knowing that you did the very best you could under extraordinary circumstances, and I’m sure that’s the way he feels.”

“I’m very confident that with the passage of time, views about his administration are going to look quite different, I’m sure there going to look a lot more positive,” Gonzales added. (On Thursday Bush gave a speech in Michigan defending his decision to authorize waterboarding, which critics have called torture, against self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.)

Gonzales said he was not surprised that Attorney General Eric Holder was having trouble closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

“This is a very difficult issue, and we tried for years to find a solution,” he said. “President Bush wasn’t interested in being a world jailer, or keeping open Guantanamo except for the fact that it was necessary. We knew that there was a public image problem, but it was a necessity, and it’s a necessity that continues, and that’s why Guantanamo is still open today.”

Gonzales declined to comment on the attacks on Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Guantanamo detainees.

While he is enjoying his time in Texas, there are things he misses about D.C., Gonzales said.

“Obviously I miss working day in and day out with the career people at the department. I miss that very much, and I know how dedicated they are to serving the American people,” said Gonzales. “I’m always going to treasure my experience as the Attorney General and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be invited by President Bush to serve in that capacity.”

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

In case you missed it, five of the seven U.S. Attorneys who were fired during the Bush administration spoke at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law earlier this week. (h/t TPMMuckraker)

They reflected on their experience, the fallout of which led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and talked about preserving the integrity of U.S. Attorneys.

The panelists included:

  • Paul Charlton, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, and now a shareholder with the Phoenix law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy
  • Bud Cummins, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, now a consultant
  • David Iglesias, former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, now a prosecutor for the Office of Military Commission in Washington, D.C.
  • Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, now senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego
  • John McKay, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, now a professor from practice at the Seattle University School of Law

We’re not sure the last time so many were in one place — perhaps in 2007, when they testified about their firings on Capitol Hill. See the video below.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

An upcoming report by the Office of Professional Responsibility clears the key authors of a legal memorandum justifying waterboarding of allegations that they violated professional standards, Newsweek reports.

An earlier draft of the report concluded that former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor, failed to meet their professional obligations when crafting a 2002 memo blessing the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, a career lawyer, “downgraded that assessment to say they showed ‘poor judgment,’” during a final review of the report, according to Newsweek. Under department rules, poor judgement does not rise to the level of professional misconduct — which means no referrals to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action.

It’s unclear why Margolis softened the initial findings. A Justice Department official told Newsweek he acted without input from Holder.

The report, which has been expected for months, is undergoing declassification. The final version will provide fresh details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role top White House officials played in the process, Newsweek reports. For instance:

Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

We’ll have more throughout the day.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts used the investiture ceremony of Boston-based U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Monday to press prosecutors about their priorities, The National Law Journal reported today.

Mark Wolf (Gov)

With Attorney General Eric Holder in attendance, Chief Judge Mark Wolf asked Ortiz whether her staff is “being put to their highest and best use when two-thirds of the defendants in this federal district court are indigent and must have Criminal Justice Act counsel,” according to the NLJ.

Wolf has been vocal about what he sees prosecutorial misconduct in the district, and the gun and drug cases that Bush U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan tried in district court, The NLJ said.

“I hope as you develop the priorities for the performance of your office you will consider questions like” those, Wolf said at the ceremony, according to The NLJ.

Ortiz, the state’s first Hispanic and female U.S. Attorney, downplayed the judge’s remarks in a statement to the NLJ. Though the U.S. Attorney said at the ceremony that fighting terrorism is her “first priority,” she also said her office will focus its attention on crimes ranging from human trafficking to environmental crimes, The NLJ said.

Carmen Ortiz (DOJ)

“I believe our Assistant United States Attorneys will be put to their highest and best use regardless of who represents the defendants,” Ortiz said in the statement. “We will bring cases based on where the evidence takes us, not based on who is paying the bill.”

We reported in May that Wolf rebuked Massachusetts Assistant US Attorney Suzanne Sullivan for withholding evidence that could have helped a defendant in a gun case.

Wolf also wrote a letter to Holder in April expressing his “renewed hope” that the Attorney General would address judges’ concerns about prosecutors’ conduct. Then-Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey did not respond to similar letters from Wolf.

Wolf added in the letter that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the mishandling of the Sen. Ted Stevens public corruption case “confirms that other judges share my concern.”

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Main Justice was the first to report early last week that Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates, who had approved the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and the first voter intimidation case against black defendants in Noxubee County, Miss., had been transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina.

Christopher Coates underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000 (U. of Baltimore photo).

Now Adam Serwer of The American Prospect has written a story that puts the shake up in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division into context. Coates, writes Serwer, “underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000. Outraged, Coates filed a complaint alleging he was passed up for the job because he is white. The matter was settled internally.”

Voting section employees help a goodbye lunch for Coates on Tuesday, writes Serwer:

At the end, the attendees were startled when Coates pulled out a binder and began reciting a written defense of his decision to file the New Black Panther and Noxubee cases. Voting Section employees exchanged glances in disbelief.

“It felt like he was summing up to a jury,” one attendee said.

Serwer also writes that Coates “has been identified by several current and former Justice Department officials as the anonymous Voting Section lawyer, referred to in the joint Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report, that [Bradley] Schlozman recommended for an immigration judge position.”

One of the key players in the politicization scandal, Bradley Schlozman, wrote a letter to Monica Goodling, a former senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who was also implicated in the scandal involving politicized hiring, wrote of Coates:

Don’t be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team.

Be sure to read the whole story at the American Prospect.

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who’s now teaching a class at Texas Tech University, offered students some advice  in an article published today in the student newspaper.

“Dream big but be patient,” Gonzales told The Daily Toreador. “You never know when the next George W. Bush is going to come along and give you a once in a lifetime opportunity like he gave me, but you have to be patient.”

Gonzales resigned in September 2007 amid an uproar over allegations that the Bush White House fired U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. He was also portrayed in several books about the Bush administration as a rubber-stamp for controversial national security policies pushed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Cheney’s powerful chief of staff, David Addington, including illegal warrantless surveillance and torture.

“We live in a great country, where the son of a cotton picker can become the attorney general of the United States. It’s a country where dreams still come true,” Gonzales told the student newspaper.

Alberto Gonzales (Getty Images)

Alberto Gonzales (Getty Image

Texas Tech hired the native Texan this summer to teach a political science course and help recruit minority students. Several professors at the university have come out against his one-year, $100,000 contract. They argued Gonzales shouldn’t have been hired because of his role in Bush-era scandals. He  was Attorney General from 2005 to 2007 and before that served as Bush’s White House counsel.

The ex-Attorney General told the newspaper he is open to renewing his teaching contract when it is up next year.

“I’m a component. Hopefully a helpful and useful component,” Gonzales told The Toreador. “We’ll see what happens after a year, you know, the contract may be renewed. If Tech wants me back and I think it’s best for me and my family, it’s something I would certainly consider continuing.”

Gonzales told the newspaper that the students in his junior-level political science seminar, Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch, were a little shy at first, but they are starting to open up about politics in his class.

He told The Toreador he encourages his students to “press and push convictions and positions.”

“We’re getting into subject areas that are controversial and I have encouraged [the students] to speak out and to not hold back, to come forward and give your opinions,” Gonzales told the newspaper.

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Friday, November 20th, 2009
Kevin J. O'Connor (Bracewell and Giuliani)

Kevin J. O'Connor (Bracewell and Giuliani)

Kevin O’Connor, a former U.S. Attorney in Connecticut and ex-Associate Attorney General, on Thursday announced he will not seek the Republican nomination for governor of Connecticut next year, WFSB, a Hartford television station, reports. The announcement came as O’Connor taped “Face the State,” a political program on WFSB that will air on Sunday.

Last week, Gov. Jodi Rell (R) announced that she will not seek re-election next year and mentioned O’Connor as a possible successor, calling him one of several qualified Republicans; however, she declined to endorse anyone.

O’Connor was the state’s top federal prosecutor from 2002 to April 2008. From January 2006 to April 2006, he also briefly served simultaneously as Associate Deputy Attorney General. In addition, O’Connor in 2007 was then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales‘ chief of staff and in 2008 was confirmed by the Senate as Associate Attorney General. He currently is a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani in Hartford.

When announcing his decision, O’Connor cited family considerations, including his four young children, WFSB reports. He did not, however, rule out a future run for office, according to the television station.