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More Details on Gonzales Preparing For April 17 Testimony:
In Newsweek, Michael Isikoff has a remarkable piece on the Attorney General's preparations for his April 17 Senate testimony. I blogged about this topic before, but Isikoff adds a lot more details. An excerpt:
  At a recent "prep" for a prospective Sunday talk-show interview, Gonzales's performance was so poor that top aides scrapped any live appearances. During the March 23 session in the A.G.'s conference room, Gonzales was grilled by a team of top aides and advisers—including former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former White House lawyer Tim Flanigan—about what he knew about the plan to fire seven U.S. attorneys last fall. But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over, said the source.
Another excerpt:
  "There's nobody quarterbacking this," said another frustrated administration official, who asked not to be identified for the same reasons. "The department is in a state of paralysis." But Gonzales remains determined to make his case. He is spending hours alone in his office, poring over documents and calling members of Congress; his staff is planning "murder board" sessions later this week where outsiders may be brought in to play the roles of Judiciary chair Sen. Patrick Leahy or Sen. Chuck Schumer. Gonzales is likely to start out next week's hearing with a more expansive mea culpa.
Thanks to Howard for the link.
Steve Lubet (mail):
It seems that Gonzales is getting lots of help remembering what he did and when he did it. Unless his handlers are all lawyers, couldn't they also be subpoenaed? If so, would they have to disclose Gonzales's pre-murder board recollections?

Mind you, I'm not saying that should happen. But what would prevent it?
4.8.2007 5:08pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
While not a great public speaker, in his past appearances Gonzales hasn't shown himself to be totally inept either, has he? That being the case, is the great difficulty he is having now attributable to the fact that he is under greater pressure than before, or, as I suspect, is it because he knows that he has behaved improperly and is unlikely to be able to lie his way out of it?
4.8.2007 5:32pm
John Herbison (mail):
Steve Lubet raises an interesting question about subpoenas for Mr. Gonzales's handlers. Indeed, the qualification, "[u]nless his handlers are all lawyers," may not exempt lawyers in government service (as distinct from private lawyers advising Mr. Gonzales personally) from being compelled to testify. See, In re Lindsey, 331 U.S. App. D.C. 246; 148 F.3d 1100 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

Perhaps Mr. Gonzales should claim Fifth Amendment privilege, as has the Monica du jour.

Gonzie, you're doing a heck of a job.
4.8.2007 6:15pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
or, as I suspect, is it because he knows that he has behaved improperly and is unlikely to be able to lie his way out of it?

Telling the truth doesn't require a lot of rehearsals....
4.8.2007 6:21pm
Cerveza (mail):

But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added.


I'm sorry, but that seems to me to be somebody who is just not up to the job, not necessarily lying.

On the other hand, if you think that someone is going to demand from you a minute by minute account of your day yesterday-- or they were going to ruin your entire life-- any of us might be pretty hard pressed. (And still not be a liar.) Seems like Gonzales is going in with the assumption that the Senate is going to be completely hostile and unreasonable. Probably a pretty safe bet.
4.8.2007 6:30pm
The Rabbit:
I'm sorry, but that seems to me to be somebody who is just not up to the job, not necessarily lying.

Cerveza, that is an interesting defense of Gonzales. The argument seems to bem "He is incompetent, but it's not necessarily true that he is also a liar." As for reconstructing a minute by minute account, note that Gonzlaes is of course free to say that he doesn't remember something. No one expects hiom to have all the answers -- he just needs to give a decent accounting for himself, just like his former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson was able to do. Whether Gonzales is believed to be truthful will be a judgment of the American people, not Chuck Schumer.
4.8.2007 6:55pm
juror (mail):

Some comments imply that memory and credibility are an all-or-nothing exercise. I recently served as a juror on a criminal trial, and I can tell you that it's very possible to make these fine distinctions. If anybody tries to pick apart the fact that Kyle Sampson said a meeting took place at 1:34 pm and Gonzales says it took place at 1:37 pm, then it will be obvious to all that memory isn't perfect and that both believe they are telling the truth. On the other hand, if Sampson says Gonzales participated in meetings to dismiss the attorneys, and Gonzales says that he didn't, one of them is lying.

The distinction is that there are some things that a reasonable person in a particular circumstance is likely to remember and certain things that a reasonable person is not likely the remember. For the trial I was involved in, the defense attorney made a big deal out of the fact that one person said the defendant was holding a baseball bat and the other said it was a broom handle. All the jurors could see how two people could both observe that same event and both believe what they saw. On the other hand, the defense attorney couldn't poke holes or find contradictions in the more relevant details, such as the identity of the individual who was responsible for causing the injury.

I think a reasonable person -- and the Senators interviewing Gonzales -- fully realize that picking apart silly minute details will just look petty, whereas trying to find contradictions in major details will make Gonzales look like a liar.
4.8.2007 7:43pm
Steve Lubet (mail):

or they were going to ruin your entire life


It is not obvious to me that A.G. Gonzales stands to have his entire life ruined by this inquiry. On the other hand, it is fairly life ruining to claim that a United States attorney was dismissed for "performance related reasons," especially if that was not the case.
4.8.2007 8:37pm
Kilo (mail):

The Rabbit: "Cerveza, that is an interesting defense of Gonzales. The argument seems to bem "He is incompetent, but it's not necessarily true that he is also a liar."


Yeah. Interesting in the same way that seeing this defense employed by far more prominant WH officials on far more serious matters on every issue on every day for the past 5 years has been "interesting".

You know what else is interesting ? Milk. Have you realised it's white? Fascinating. Didn't see that coming when I opened the latest carton.
4.8.2007 10:36pm
TMac (mail):
It seems that everyone is taking Isikoff's story as gospel.
I find it difficult to believe anything coming from him or Newsweek.
4.8.2007 11:22pm
Lev:
This was from a story in the WashTimes


Like Lewis Powell and Sandra Day O'Connor before him, Justice Kennedy has become the court's "swing justice," a term he dislikes because he says it implies vacillation.


I say he isn't principled enough to be a swing justice, or even a vacillation justice.

Gonzales is just preparing to dig himself a huge hole, jump in, then cover himself up, at the hearings. The surest way to get into trouble at a deposition is to review intensively everything that is going to be asked about. Not only does one give onelself the strong likelihood of mixing all those irrelevant details up and looking untruthful, but one must produce everything reviewed in preparation. This is not a case where overpreparation is a smart thing.
4.9.2007 12:38am
He said, she said: lair, liar or a question of mens rea:

On the other hand, if Sampson says Gonzales participated in meetings to dismiss the attorneys, and Gonzales says that he didn't, one of them is lying.


Uh say what? Look, lets say Gonzales was in such a meeting were these attorneys were under discussion. This does not mean then that by saying such a thing didn't happen that he is lying. It could just as well mean that meetings were about something different from his perspective. Indeed,the fact that he would remember them his way reinforces the position that he did not personally act improperly.

The difference here is one of mens rea. So if we were to presuming that if he makes contradictory statements that deny involvement then he is lying, we would have just begged the question in the formal sense.
4.9.2007 1:25am
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
The very fact that details of the "prep" session are being leaked to Isikoff is a sign that someone has decided to feed him to the sharks. That the attendees were "team of top aides and advisers—including former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former White House lawyer Tim Flanigan" is worse.

Now, not only does Gonzalez need to worry about his situation, he has to worry about wheter his "top aides", Ed Gillespie or Tim Flanigan are actively working against him. My impression of Isikoff is that he is a stand-up guy and is reporting his sources straight so Gonzalez should be afraid.
4.9.2007 3:28pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
Cross-examination by an even moderately skilled lawyer is a trying experience. It isn't enough just to try to tell the truth. That will keep you from perjury, but it won't keep you from looking like a fool, particularly if the examination is not in a trial, so no question can be ruled out. It's easy for me to believe that Gonzalez doesn't have the wit to do well, especially if he doesn't want to keep saying "I don't remember" or to admit that he delegated things to subordinates that he should have known about personally.
4.9.2007 3:43pm