March 29, 2007
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR
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SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA) COMMENTS ON
KYLE SAMPSONíS TESTIMONY BEFORE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE,
FUTURE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES
ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
TODAY, THURSDAY, MARCH 29

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



March 29, 2007; Washington, D.C. Ė Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), in an interview with Robert Siegel airing today on NPR News All Things Considered, comments on the testimony of Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Says Senator Specter: ďI believe that the e-mails and the other documents strongly raise the inference that the attorney general did know that there was a plan to appoint attorneys under the provisions of the Patriot Act, which circumvented confirmation by the SenateÖ And there are sequences where you have e-mails over a three-month period of time where Mr. Sampsonís plan to use the Patriot Act circumvention is relied upon extensively. So the inference arises that in that time, the attorney general likely knew about it.Ē

When asked if he thinks the Attorney General was trying to mislead the public in previous statements, Senator Specter says: ďIím not inclined to be charitable; Iím inclined to be factual. The key point was that in his March 13th news conference, the attorney general said he wasnít involved in discussions. And there is an e-mail on November 27th last year which suggests that the attorney general was involved in a meeting on November 20th where there presumably were discussions. And I think that the attorney general has to explain that, and, candidly, he has got a lot of explaining to do, but I think he ought to have the opportunity to do that before we come to a judgment.Ē

When asked if he thinks todayís testimony revealed all the facts in this case, Senator Specter says: ďThe facts that I want to hear are from the attorney general himself. I think that we need to hear his testimony under oath. We have what he said at news conferences and what he is quoted as saying in the newspapers, but Iím not prepared to make a judgment; I donít think itís fair to make a judgment on that alone.Ē

Senator Specter adds: ďLetís hear who made the judgment to ask these U.S. attorneys to resign. Now we have a factual record from Kyle Sampson. I want a factual record for Alberto Gonzales, and if they have done something wrong, Iíll be the first to say so.Ē

A rushed transcript of the interview with Senator Specter 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: Well, now, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Welcome to the program, Senator Specter.

SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Thank you. Very nice to talk to you and your listeners. Thank you.

MR. SIEGEL: We just heard you pressing Kyle Sampson about whether the attorney general knew about or approved of a plan to possibly run out the clock by using the USA Patriot Act. Are you satisfied with the answer that you received to that question?

SEN. SPECTER: I believe that the e-mails and the other documents strongly raise the inference that the attorney general did know that there was a plan to appoint attorneys under the provisions of the Patriot Act, which circumvented confirmation by the Senate. There is language about the interim appointments, and that refers to the Patriot Act. And there are sequences where you have e-mails over a three-month period of time where Mr. Sampsonís plan to use the Patriot Act circumvention is relied upon extensively. So the inference arises that in that time, the attorney general likely knew about it.

MR. SIEGEL: Well, some of your Democratic colleagues -- several have called for the attorney general to resign. You said you wanted to hear more facts. Did you hear enough facts today to settle that question in your mind?

SEN. SPECTER: The facts that I want to hear are from the attorney general himself. I think that we need to hear his testimony under oath. We have what he said at news conferences and what he is quoted as saying in the newspapers, but Iím not prepared to make a judgment; I donít think itís fair to make a judgment on that alone. He is scheduled to come before the Judiciary Committee, and I think we ought to let him have his day in court, hear him out, and then come to an informed judgment.

MR. SIEGEL: You confronted Mr. Sampson, who was the attorney generalís chief of staff. Would the contradiction between what Attorney General Gonzales had said in March, that he wasnít at all involved in firing the U.S. attorneys, and then the e-mails Ė are you inclined to be charitable and write off that contradiction to a faulty memory, or do you think the attorney general was trying to mislead the public in a news conference?

SEN. SPECTER: Iím not inclined to be charitable; Iím inclined to be factual. The key point was that in his March 13th news conference, the attorney general said he wasnít involved in discussions. And there is an e-mail on November 27th last year which suggests that the attorney general was involved in a meeting on November 20th where there presumably were discussions. And I think that the attorney general has to explain that, and, candidly, he has got a lot of explaining to do, but I think he ought to have the opportunity to do that before we come to a judgment.

MR. SIEGEL: You have been overseeing the Department of Justice for many years from your seat on that committee. Is the picture that youíre getting of Attorney General Gonzalesís stewardship of justice typical or unusually disengaged from, say, the decision of dismissing U.S. attorneys?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, Iím going to deal with Attorney General Gonzales. If you start to compare him to other attorney generals, there are lots of problems in the past that you can cite. But we have enough on our hands to figure out what happened with the U.S. attorneys here, and we have also got these national security letters, which is before the committee now.

We had FBI Director Mueller in earlier this week, and we found that the FBI abused the national security letters, did not have sufficient factual basis to have an issue, relied on what was called exigent circumstances emergency and didnít back them up, and the attorney general is responsible for that as well.

So I want to hear him out on these two big issues, as I say, before I make up my own mind.

MR. SIEGEL: But just a last point. On the issue of the U.S. attorneys, is the attorney general in a no-win situation where the best he can say is, I really wasnít very much involved in what we were doing at the Department of Justice?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, letís hear Ė letís hear what he has to say. Letís hear who made the judgment to ask these U.S. attorneys to resign. Now we have a factual record from Kyle Sampson. I want a factual record for Alberto Gonzales, and if they have done something wrong, Iíll be the first to say so.

MR. SIEGEL: Well, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, thank you very much for talking with us.

SEN. SPECTER: Always glad to be with you. Thank you.

(END)