In his Senate testimony yesterday, Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tried to be a “loyal Bushie,” a term Mr. Sampson used in his infamous e-mail message to describe what he was looking for in United States attorneys. But if Mr. Sampson was trying to fall on his sword, he had horrible aim. In testimony that got so embarrassing for the White House that the Republicans tried to cut it off, Mr. Sampson simply ended up making it clearer than ever that the eight prosecutors were fired for political reasons.
He provided more evidence, also, that the attorney general and other top Justice Department officials were dishonest in their initial statements about the firings.
Mr. Sampson flatly contradicted the attorney general’s claim that he did not participate in the selection of the prosecutors to be fired and never had a conversation about “where things stood.” Mr. Sampson testified that Mr. Gonzales was “aware of this process from the beginning,” and that the two men regularly discussed where things stood. Mr. Sampson also confirmed that Mr. Gonzales was at the Nov. 27 meeting where the selected prosecutors’ fates were sealed.
The hearing brought out evidence that Mr. Sampson also may have made false statements. A Feb. 23 letter to Congress based on information from Mr. Sampson stated that Karl Rove was not involved in replacing the United States attorney in Arkansas with Timothy Griffin, Mr. Rove’s former aide. Mr. Sampson could not convincingly explain why he wrote that, when he had said in an e-mail message two months earlier that getting Mr. Griffin appointed was “important” to Mr. Rove. He finally acknowledged that he had discussed the appointment with Mr. Rove’s two top aides.
The senators questioning Mr. Sampson pointed to a troubling pattern: many of the fired prosecutors were investigating high-ranking Republicans.