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Former Chief of Staff Contradicts Gonzales in Hill Testimony

Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that his former boss gave inaccurate statements when he said that he wasn't involved in the firing of U.S. attorneys.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Kyle Sampson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was the most hotly anticipated in recent memory.

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: Mr. Sampson, please stand and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you're about to give in this matter shall be the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?

    KYLE SAMPSON, Former Gonzales Chief of Staff: Yes, sir.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    As chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales before resigning March 12th, Sampson orchestrated the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys. That act has sparked a furor inside and outside the Justice Department and put Gonzales' job in jeopardy.

    Today, speaking publicly on the issue for the first time, he said the attorney general and former White House counsel Harriet Miers discussed replacing U.S. attorneys and approved the ultimate firings, contradicting Gonzales' statements that he was not consulted beforehand.

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    The decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president. I and others made staff recommendations, but they were approved and signed off on by the principals.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Some of those discussions took place at a meeting last November 27th, 10 days before seven of the attorneys were fired.

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

    SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), Pennsylvania: Is what, is accurate?

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    I don't think it's accurate.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Sampson testified voluntarily, after the committee authorized subpoenaing him last week.

    Sampson's colleague, Monica Goodling, the department's White House liaison who was present at many of the critical meetings, told the committee she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

    White House political adviser Karl Rove and former counsel Miers may be subpoenaed, but the president has said he will not allow them to testify publicly or under oath.

    In his testimony, Sampson also disputed Gonzales' claim that he had not told Justice Department officials about his talks with the White House regarding the firings, leading those officials to testify erroneously before Congress.

    Gonzales blamed Sampson, his former chief of staff, on March 13th.

  • ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. Attorney General:

    The charge for the chief of staff here was to drive this process. And the mistake that occurred here was that information that he had was not shared with individuals within the department, who was then going to be providing testimony and information to the Congress.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), New York: Was that an accurate statement that he made?

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    Senator, I believe that at no time did I ever intend to mislead the Congress or mislead witnesses that were coming before the Congress. I think we mishandled the preparation for Mr. McNulty's testimony…

  • SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

    Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt. I just am trying to get yes or no questions. He said, OK, that the mistake that occurred here was that information you had, Kyle Sampson had, was not shared with individuals within the department. Is that true or false?

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    Senator, I shared information with anyone who wanted it. I was very open and collaborative in the process, in the preparation for Mr. McNulty and Mr. Moschella's testimony.

  • SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

    So I want to ask, did you share information with Mr. McNulty and Mr. Moschella?

  • KYLE SAMPSON:

    I did.

  • SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

    So the attorney general's statement is wrong?

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