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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) questions U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Department of Justice Oversight.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he played a minor role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, but he also offered an apology to the prosecutors and their families.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales today said he "never sought to mislead or deceive the Congress or the American people" on that or any other matter.
Of the federal prosecutors dismissed in 2006, Gonzales said, "Each is a fine lawyer and a dedicated professional. I regret how they were treated, and I apologize to them and to their families."
Gonzales said today that his involvement in the dismissals was limited. But he also told Congress he had conversations about U.S. attorneys Bud Cummins in Arkansas, Carol Lam in San Diego, and David Iglesias in New Mexico.
Gonzales said he had thousands of conversations over the two years that the dismissals were being discussed. So in context, he said, his involvement was limited. He noted that he never looked at the prosecutors' performance evaluations before signing off on their dismissals.
Even Justice Department officials are admitting that the attorney general's ability to keep his job may depend on his performance at the hearing.
During the entire hearing, Republicans who usually come to the attorney general's defense went on the attack. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called the dismissals "deplorable."