- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

New information was scarce, but theatrics from congressmen and demonstrators abounded yesterday during congressional testimony by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales, who appears to have weathered Democratic calls for his resignation, yesterday told a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing that he failed to adequately oversee the firings of federal prosecutors but that the actions were justified.

“My feelings and recollections about this matter have not changed since that time,” Mr. Gonzales said, referring to his testimony last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House hearing was not called specifically to address the firings last year of eight federal prosecutors, which Democrats say were improper.

Republican members showed support for the embattled attorney general.

“The list of accusations has mushroomed, but the evidence of wrongdoing has not,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee. “If there are no fish in this lake, we should reel in our lines of questions, dock our empty boat and turn to more pressing issues.”

Democrats, however, intend to keep calling witnesses in the matter. A committee spokeswoman said a federal judge is expected to grant immunity today to Monica Goodling, Mr. Gonzales’ former legal counsel and White House liaison.

If immunity is granted, the spokeswoman said, the committee will schedule a hearing, likely before Memorial Day.

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

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group, told Mr. Conyers that the Senate Judiciary Committee had allowed protesters to stay for Mr. Gonzales’ hearing.

This enraged the 21-term congressman. “We have to negotiate this? I don’t care about other hearings,” he said.

During the hearing, Republicans became outraged when Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, California Democrat, referred to Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican, as the “target” of a Justice Department investigation, the one previously undiscussed matter.

Miss Sanchez asked Mr. Gonzales why Debra Yang resigned from her U.S. attorney post in Los Angeles while her office reportedly was investigating Mr. Lewis on reports of political corruption. Miss Yang reportedly took a $1.5 million signing bonus to join Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the same private law firm that is representing Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Gonzales said nothing untoward happened, as cases do not end when a U.S. attorney resigns. He added that he “is not confirming that Mr. Lewis is a target,” a formal legal term for a person who has been officially notified that prosecutors are investigating him.

But that wasn’t enough for Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, who talked 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, a former attorney general of California.

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

Less than an hour later, Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, 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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