Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee in January that the Justice Department had no intention of avoiding Senate input on the hiring of U.S. attorneys. Just a month earlier, reports the Washington Post, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales’s chief of staff, laid out a plan to do just that. He detailed a strategy for evading Arkansas Democrats in installing Tim Griffin, a former GOP operative and protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove, as the U.S. attorney in Little Rock.
Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the committee there was no plan to use Gonzales’s appointment powers to evade Senate oversight, that accusations of “politicizing” the hiring and firing process were “completely contrary to my daily experience,” and that the dismissals of everyone but the Arkansas prosecutor were “performance-related.” Each of those contentions is called into question in 143 pages of internal e-mails and documents turned over to the House and the Senate. Most were sent or received by Sampson. Legal scholars say prosecutions related to lying to or misleading Congress are rare, and that they usually focus on cases in which a defendant is alleged to have lied or destroyed evidence in an attempt to mislead lawmakers. Law Prof. Stephen Gillers of New York University said several statutes involving obstruction of justice and perjury can be applied to cases in which witnesses allegedly mislead lawmakers.