Magazine article Newsweek

Gonzales Crams for a Senate Grilling

Magazine article Newsweek

Gonzales Crams for a Senate Grilling

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Isikoff

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has virtually wiped his public schedule clean to bone up for his long-awaited April 17 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee--a session widely seen as a crucial test as to whether he will survive the U.S. attorney mess. But even his own closest advisers are nervous about whether he is up to the task. 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. Asked for comment, Scolinos told NEWSWEEK: "This was the first session of this kind that we'd done."

One problem is that Gonzales is increasingly isolated. Top DOJ lawyers have decreed he can't talk about the U.S. attorney firings with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and his staff, who are key witnesses in an internal Justice inquiry into whether DOJ officials misled Congress. …

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