Judiciary Committee should launch impeachment proceedings against Gonzales

Common Cause on Thursday called on the House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for demonstrating a reckless disregard for the obligations of his office by subverting the public interest for partisan political concerns.

“In this country, where the rule of law is paramount, the top law enforcement official must set the example for legal and ethical behavior,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar said. “The Department of Justice has a singular obligation to enforce the law without prejudice or partisan purpose. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has demonstrated reckless disregard for the obligations of his office. Under his leadership, the Department of Justice has subverted the public interest for partisan political concerns.”

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee making the case for impeachment, Common Cause listed developments involving Mr. Gonzales and the Justice Department that have become public since January thanks to Congressional inquiries:

Nine U.S. Attorneys were forced from their jobs without being told why, including some prosecutors who received favorable performance evaluations. It appears the prosecutors were fired for refusing to succumb to partisan political pressure.

In response to Congressional inquiries, Mr. Gonzales and Justice Department officials have offered differing, and at times contradictory, explanations for the firings, at first saying that the prosecutors were fired for poor performance and that the White House had played only a minor role.

Subsequent to their initial testimony, Justice Department officials switched stories, saying the fired prosecutors had received good performance evaluations, and that the White House had initiated the dismissals.

When Mr. Gonzales testified before Congress about the dismissals, he said he was involved sporadically in the process, but had delegated much of the responsibility to staff. He said many times in his testimony that he could not recall specific details.

A senior advisor to the Attorney General, Monica Goodling, acknowledged under oath that she “crossed the line” when she used political criteria in the selection of non-political positions within the Justice Department.

In addition, four members of Gonzales’ inner circle have resigned or have announced their intention to resign. The Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating whether any laws were violated in the alleged politicized hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges.

The congressional impeachment process is specifically designed to protect the public from misfeasance by public officials. “Given the stonewalling and recalcitrance of the Administration over the Attorney General’s conduct, impeachment appears to be the only vehicle for vindicating the public’s interest in having an Attorney General who is free of conflicts of interest and who enforces the nation’s laws in a fair and nonpartisan manner,” Edgar said.

Common Cause said the Attorney General of the United States, as well as U.S. Attorneys, have a long history of non-partisanship and of enforcing the nation’s laws in a fair manner. “That reputation has been tarnished and must be restored,” Edgar said.

“Common Cause does not make this call for impeachment casually, but believes no further options remain for obtaining the necessary evidence to evaluate the Attorney General’s conduct,” Edgar said.

Common Cause is asking its 300,000 members and supporters to sign a pledge in support of impeachment for Gonzales.

Read the full letter to House Judiciary Committee members here.

Sign on to the petition here.