March 16, 2007
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR
 | 

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL)
ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER DISCUSSES
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES’ FUTURE
TODAY, FRIDAY, MARCH 16

TRANSCRIPT BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG



March 16, 2007; Washington, D.C. – Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has “got some questions he has got to answer” regarding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

In the interview, airing today on NPR News All Things Considered, Senator Sessions tells Robert Siegel: “I’ve not joined in a call for his resignation, but when a top official in a department is inaccurate in their testimony, we’re going to have a look at it. That’s just the way it is. And I hope that he will be able to answer that convincingly; that there is no ethical or other malintent in misleading Congress. If he did, I think he will be out of there.”

Senator Sessions also discusses the implication of politics playing a role in the firings: “United States attorneys are not entitled to keep their office for one day, much less indefinitely. So that’s the fact about it. But I think it’s not their politics, it should not – and there’s absolutely no excuse for the Department of Justice trying to improperly interfere with a decision about a specific case... If there’s any evidence of that, I think heads should roll immediately.”

A rushed transcript of the interview with Senator Sessions is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News All Things Considered. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo. The audio of the interview will be made available at www.NPR.org at approximately 7:00 p.m. ET.

All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon news magazine, is hosted by Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel and reaches nearly 11 million listeners weekly. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org.

-NPR-

ROBERT SIEGEL: Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama has expressed concern about Attorney General Gonzales’ handling of this matter, and he joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Welcome to the program.

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Good to be with you.

MR. SIEGEL: You said the Justice Department is now “under a cloud.” Do you hold Attorney General Gonzales responsible for that cloud?

SEN. SESSIONS: You know, sometimes those events occur that cause – raise questions based on inadvertence or just error – forgivable error. Sometimes it can be more serious than that. I don’t think we know that yet. I believe the attorney general will be forthcoming. He’s got some questions he has got to answer. This is a tough town; people are not very forgiving, and he’s going to have to answer them clearly and with – and convincingly. I think he can, but we’ll have to wait and see.

MR. SIEGEL: You say you think he can, but at the moment does he still enjoy your confidence as attorney general?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, he has always been a straight shooter to me, a decent person who I believe has tried to serve his country well. I’m convinced of that. I’ve not joined in a call for his resignation, but when a top official in a department is inaccurate in their testimony, we’re going to have a look at it. That’s just the way it is. And I hope that he will be able to answer that convincingly; that there is no ethical or other malintent in misleading Congress. If he did, I think he will be out of there.

MR. SIEGEL: At the moment, from the contradictory explanations that have been given of the dismissals and the email that was published last night that still contradicts prior accounts, do you – can you square that simply with a communications problems or innocent mismanagement, or do you suspect people were trying to get away with telling Congress less than Congress wanted to know?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, if they were, then people need to be sanctioned for it. Apparently the chief of staff to the attorney general, who was in the middle of most of this, whose emails are most prominent, has already been – he has been booted or he resigned. So obviously there is some suggestion in that that he did not perform according to the highest standards of the Department of Justice.

But I’ve got to tell you that I have some sympathy for these people trying to serve in public office. Things are happening around them, a hundred decisions a day, people are in and out of their office discussing matters. It is easy to fail to communicate adequately or to remember adequately, so I think he deserves a real chance to explain what happened.

MR. SIEGEL: You’re a former U.S. attorney from southern Alabama.

SEN. SESSIONS: Yes.

MR. SIEGEL: When you read an email from that chief of staff to the attorney general that says approvingly of some U.S. attorneys that they are “loyal Bushies” – those were his words – do you hear a hint in that language of more politicization of Justice Department prosecutors than is healthy?

SEN. SESSIONS: Well, that’s not a good philosophy to utilize, I think. You want people – and the president – any president, whether it’s President Clinton or President Bush or anyone else, is entitled to United States attorneys who are loyal to his priorities, and they should be that, and if they fail to execute, as some did – some failed, I think, to follow aggressively the priorities of this United States Department of Justice, then I think it’s time for a parting of the ways.

United States attorneys are not entitled to keep their office for one day, much less indefinitely. So that’s the fact about it. But I think it’s not their politics, it should not – and there’s absolutely no excuse for the Department of Justice trying to improperly interfere with a decision about a specific case.

MR. SIEGEL: Senator –

SEN. SESSIONS: If there’s any evidence of that, I think heads should roll immediately.

MR. SIEGEL: Senator Sessions, thank you very much for talking with us.

SEN. SESSIONS: Thank you.

MR. SIEGEL: Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

(End of interview.)