- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

New information was scarce, but theatrics plentiful today during congressional testimony by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales, who has faced calls for his resignation from Democrats and a handful of Republicans for weeks now, was called to testify for an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Though the hearing was not directly related to the firing of eight federal prosecutors last year, many of the questions from lawmakers revolved around the firings.

Mr. Gonzales repeated what he told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month: He did not adequately supervise the process of choosing which U.S. attorneys were to be fired, and he did not explain the firings clearly enough, but the firings were justified and not improper.

“My feelings and recollections about this matter have not changed since that time,” Mr. Gonzales said, referring to his previous testimony.

Mr. Gonzales said he had “soberly questioned” his past actions, but that he did “not intend recent events to deter us from our mission.”

Democrats, however, intend to keep calling witnesses in the matter. A House Judiciary spokeswoman said they expect a federal judge to grant immunity tomorrow to Mr. Gonzales’ former legal counsel and White House liason, Monica Goodling.

If immunity is granted tomorrow, the spokeswoman said, the committtee will schedule a hearing, which is likely to be before Memorial Day.

Mr. Gonzales was questioned about one previously undiscussed matter [-] the resignation last fall of Debra Yang, then the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles, while her office was reportedly investigating Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican.

However, much of the day’s drama was unrelated to Mr. Gonzales.

Before the hearing even began, Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, walked out from behind his seat on the dais to personally oversee the removal of two Code Pink protesters.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group Code Pink, told Mr. Conyers that protesters were allowed to stay in Mr. Gonzales’ hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that only made the 21-term congressman angrier.

“We have to negotiate this? I don’t care about other hearings,” he said before walking away.

The confrontation with Code Pink protesters got even worse after a late-morning break to allow lawmakers to vote. During the break Capitol Police removed all but one of the protesters, which had multiplied into a group of six or seven, as the women shouted their objections.

When Mr. Conyers walked through a group of protesters outside the hearing room on his way to resume the session, they taunted the chairman, who served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer during the Korean War, by calling him a “war criminal.”

Meanwhile, Republicans were outraged when a Democrat congresswoman went too far in describing Mr. Lewis as the “target” of an investigation by the Justice Department.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, California Democrat, asked Mr. Gonzales why Ms. Yang reportedly took a $1.5 million signing bonus to join Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP, the same private law firm that is representing Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Gonzales said that because assistant U.S. attorneys run investigations, “that case will continue, as it should,” but also said the Justice Department “is not confirming that Mr. Lewis is a target.”

Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, was talking heatedly with four other Republicans and then objected to Miss Sanchez’s words, which he said “besmirched” Mr. Lewis.

“As anybody knows, there’s a huge difference between an investigation and a target,” said Mr. Lungren, the former attorney general of California.

Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, asked that Miss Sanchez’s word be “taken down,” which would have submitted them to the chair for a ruling on the suitability of what she said. If a chair rules that a member’s words have been inappropriate, that disciplined member may not speak for the rest of the day without permission.

Miss Sanchez withdrew her use of the word “target” to apply to Mr. Lewis.

Less than an hour later, Mr. Cannon approached Mr. Lewis in a hallway, put his arm around his shoulder and informed him of what had happened.

“Thank you,” Mr. Lewis said repeatedly, before declining to speak about the matter with the Washington Times.

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