Friday, April 27, 2007

Justice Dept. Won't Release All Documents Lawmakers Seek

Friday, April 27, 2007; A21

After releasing nearly 6,000 pages of documents related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, the Justice Department says it is drawing the line.

In a letter sent last night to the Senate and House Judiciary committees, Justice gave a list of 171 documents it is withholding from Congress because they involve "congressional and media inquiries" about the dismissals, seven of which occurred Dec. 7.

According to descriptions on the list, Justice will hold e-mails plotting media strategies, draft letters to Capitol Hill, various memoranda and "discussions" related to conversations between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and lawmakers.

One e-mail from D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's then-chief of staff, focuses on a hotly disputed meeting in December between Gonzales and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). Pryor has said he felt lied to by Gonzales because the attorney general had assured him that Justice had no plans to circumvent Senate confirmation for a new U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Subsequent documents show that such a plan was discussed by Gonzales's aides before and after the Pryor meeting. Gonzales has said he opposed the idea.

The records also indicate that senior Justice officials, including Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, spent a great deal of time critiquing press coverage. The department chose to release a handful of e-mails focused on two stories in the New York Times and The Washington Post in early March.

-- Dan Eggen

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