MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And Senator Leahy joins us now from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, Senator.
Senator PATRICK LEAHY (Democrat, Vermont): Thank you. Good to be with you.
NORRIS: What was your initial reaction to reports that the firing of this group of attorneys actually initiated at the White House?
Sen. LEAHY: I was outraged. I remember walking out in the dark to pick up the paper about quarter to five this morning. I walk into the kitchen, I looked at that and I just blew my stack. It was outrageous because we had given the administration, the Department of Justice every chance to come forward and tell us everything that happened. They assured us that they had told us everything that happened. And yet they left out some very, very key points. I saw the attorney general this morning at a meeting at the Supreme Court and I told him that I was very, very unhappy with this. I'm actually quite angry about it.
NORRIS: And what did he say? I mean were you at all pleased with his reaction to that statement?
Sen. LEAHY: He said that he would be happy to come up and brief us some more. I said, no, I've had enough of these briefings where ostensibly we're told everything and turns out we weren't. The next time you come up it will be before the full committee. It will be an open session and you will be under oath.
NORRIS: Now you say that you're outraged by this, and even though your colleague Charles Schumer has called for the resignation of the attorney general, you yourself deliberately have not called for him to step down. Why not, or has that perhaps changed today?
Sen. LEAHY: Well, you know, I was very careful with what I said. I said that the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president. The president has to determine whether this is the kind of operation that he wants, that he is comfortable with, this withholding of information, this politicizing of prosecutors. If that's the standard that President Bush thinks he should have for his administration, then that's his decision. Right now, what I want to do is find out everything that happened.
I want to do it with this attorney general. I want to do it with the people who are with him. I find even the person that supposedly resigned, Mr. Sampson, is still there at the Department of Justice. So I want to find out from these people. We'll subpoena whomever we need and we will find out.
NORRIS: Now when you say he's still - Mr. Sampson is still there at the Department of Justice, clarify that for me.
Sen. LEAHY: He left supposedly, according to what the Department of Justice said, as Attorney General Gonzales' chief of staff. We found out this afternoon after the attorney general's press conference that Mr. Sampson is still there while he, quote, "goes job hunting." Come on, if you did something wrong and you're out, you should be out.
NORRIS: Now you might quarrel with the timing of these firings and even in the way that these firings were carried out. But it seems that you could argue that this is the administration's prerogative, that they can run the department as they see fit.
Sen. LEAHY: What I quarrel with is the fact that they did not tell us the truth about what happened. What I quarrel with is the fact that, even though they were under oath, they withheld information. That is unacceptable. I realize that they were used to having six years of a complacent, rubberstamp Congress controlled by their party. That changed in last year's election and we're going to ask questions. I would ask these same questions if it was a Democratic administration. I'm not going to accept half answers and I'm not going to accept misleading answers. I want full answers. I want them under oath.
NORRIS: So if you want answers, who do you plan to summon to get to the bottom of this? Does this mean that you intend to issue a subpoena to Karl Rove or perhaps others at the White House?
Sen. LEAHY: I will subpoena whomever necessary to get all the facts. Obviously, the attorney general have to come back, Mr. Sampson will have to come. I think Harriet Miers, directly involved, will have to come back. We will - there can be a number of other people. But what I want to do is to the same thing I used to do when I was a prosecutor, build a case, go to each of - whoever I feel and the committee feels is essential to uncover the truth, we will have them come and testify.
NORRIS: Does that include Karl Rove?
Sen. LEAHY: If Karl Rove is necessary in there, of course.
NORRIS: As you do plan to call people forward before a full committee, some might say that this continued investigation might seem a bit excessive. They might argue that there are more important issues for lawmakers to be looking into right now.
Sen. LEAHY: This is not the only thing that's going on in the Congress. We have everything from the budget to the War in Iraq going on, but I think it's extremely important if somebody is trying to manipulate how prosecution is done in this country. It's hard to think of many things that are more important than that. After all, that affects your liberties, my liberties, and it affects the safety of all Americans.
NORRIS: Well Senator Leahy, thank you so much for speaking with you.
Sen. LEAHY: It's good to be with you. Thank you.
NORRIS: That was Senator Patrick Leahy. He's chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
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