Gonzales met with aides about firings

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with senior aides on Nov. 27 to discuss the plan to fire U.S. attorneys, according to e-mails released Friday night by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The meeting appears to conflict with previous statements by Gonzales that he was not involved in discussions about dismissing eight U.S. attorneys last year, leaving the matter to his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson, who has resigned in the wake of the scandal, to handle.

One brief e-mail stands out in the midst of more than 283 documents released Friday night. An e-mail from Sampson to Andrew Beach, the director of scheduling and advance for the attorney  general, in which Sampson tells him who will attend a one-hour Nov. 27 meeting regarding U.S. Attorney appointments.

The e-mail says attendees will include: Gonzales, Monica Goodling, a senior counselor to Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella,  Michael Elston, McNulty’s chief of staff, and Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys Michael Battle.

“AG, me, Monica, [Deputy Attorney General], Moschella, Elston, Battle,” Sampson wrote Nov. 21. “1 hour. AG’s conference room. Thx.”

On March 13, at a press conference, Gonzales characterized himself as a CEO who had delegated to Sampson the details about the U.S. attorneys’ firings.

“I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on,” Gonzales said.

The development comes after Sampson, who organized the firing plan and oversaw its execution, agreed Friday afternoon to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for Gonzales’s resignation and the discovery of the meeting will likely fan those flames and ratchet up the pressure on President Bush to take action. However, the president has repeatedly expressed his confidence in Gonzales and the White House has said it hopes the attorney general will stay on throughout Bush’s second term.

DoJ did not return calls seeking comment.