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Interview with Former AG Alberto Gonzales

Interview with Former AG Alberto Gonzales

By John King, USA - July 23, 2010

KING: If you follow politics, you'll most likely remember the dust-up over the Bush administration's decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys. Those firings led to an investigation. And then, an important decision that didn't get that all much attention this week, the Justice Department announced that no charges would be filed against the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or other Bush administrations involved in the episode.

The former attorney general is with us exclusively to go "One-on- One."

Judge Gonzales, good to see you.

I want to read to you a bit from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial this morning about this case.

It said, quote, "After their dismissal in 2006, Democrats pounced on the Bush administration for politicizing justice, and Mr. Gonzales became their favorite pinata. Democrats alleged that Karl Rove, then the deputy White House chief of staff, meddled in those decisions. He was also exonerated this week."

This is the first interview you've given about this. Just first and foremost, how do you feel?

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I feel good, John. I feel angry that I had to go through this, that my family had to suffer through this. And what for? It was for nothing.

I'm glad the investigation is over. And I'm glad the American people are reassured that nothing wrong happened during my tenure as attorney general in connection with the removals of these U.S. attorneys. KING: You say you feel angry. I get that. And the letter though, I do want to hold it up, it says they found insufficient evidence. It doesn't say clearly that nothing happened. It does say that they believe that you were overly political in these firings and it does say --

GONZALES: Yes.

KING: -- that the inspector general found you gave inaccurate and misleading statements but they said there was insufficient evidence there was any criminal activity. It does say that they believe, in this letter, that you were too political and not up to the standards of the DOJ. Do you dispute that?

GONZALES: Well, let me clarify for your audience here, what exactly she said. First of all, her statements about whether or not there was undue politics involved in the decision to remove a U.S. attorney, only related to David Iglesias. If you look carefully at that letter, her review was limited to the removal of David Iglesias.

KING: That's correct.

GONZALES: That's where the most serious questions existed. So, I think it is very, very important for people to understand that.

KING: I want to read you one sentence from it because I want to hear your direct response to it. Here is the -- in the final letter to Congress, "While the actions of DOJ leadership" -- which is you, sir -- "were contrary to DOJ principles, they were not intended and did not influence or in any way impede voter fraud prosecutions or a particular public corruption case." That is particularly in the case of Mr. Iglesias.

I just want you to refer and respond to the idea that the actions of DOJ leadership were contrary to DOJ principles. In other words, they think you were too political.

GONZALES: Well, again, this is an opinion by a career prosecutor about the removal of one single individual, not nine, not seven, but one. And I would just say this: the job of a prosecutor is to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. That is the job of the prosecutor.

And her judgment in this case and I respect her work, her judgment as to the political correctness of a decision by the attorney general or by the president of the United States, quite frankly, is inappropriate and unwarranted in this particular case. What is really important that you cited to in the letter is that there is no evidence that the removal of Iglesias or the removal of the other U.S. attorneys that any case was improperly influenced.

KING: An issue you dealt with at the White House and at the Justice Department was illegal immigration, border enforcement, whether we should have a guest worker program, a path to citizenship or some legal status for those in the country illegally. First, just your observations -- the Arizona law, do you think it is necessary and do you support it?

GONZALES: That's a very difficult question. I'm, you know, having begun my public service in state government. I very much respect the authority of states to make the decisions to provide for its citizen -- the safety and welfare of its citizens. And having served in the federal government, I also understand and appreciate that the federal government has failed miserably in enforcing immigration policy, quite frankly -- a dismal failure.

As to whether or not the Arizona law makes sense, courts are going to decide whether or not Congress has preempted this area of the law. I think you need to see how it's going to be implemented. I think it could -- in certain cases, you could find cases of racial profiling. But in those cases, then you throw out the arrest or you throw out the conviction.

It's the same thing that happens with respect to the use of law enforcement tools in other areas. If a search is unlawful in some way, you don't throw out the authority of the police to engage in searches. You throw out the arrest. You throw out the conviction.

But as to whether or not it's racial profiling, we'll just have to wait and see. I'm dead set against racial profiling. It is wrong and should not be supported.

But whether or not this law constitutes racial profiling, I still -- I think it's too early to tell.

KING: You're speaking to me from Texas today. The president's nephew, George P. Bush, is on the airwaves in Texas. Listen to a snippet of his efforts to try to get Latinos to listen to the Republican side.

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KING: What's the challenge in your view?

GONZALES: Well, we have to convince Hispanics, younger Hispanics, that they are welcome in the party, quite frankly, and that their voices will be heard. And that they can make a difference and that they will be promoted, they will be supported by the party.

Listen, I think it's fairly obvious to everyone that the Republican Party will not regain power, control in the Congress, will not retain or gain control of the White House unless we do a better job of outreach to the Hispanic community. And one of the ways you do that is you show the Hispanic community, you know what, we want to promote people from within your community. Show us who the rising stars are and let us work with them, let us train them. Let us support them, and that's how you grow the Republican Party.

KING: Your friend, the former president, is working on his memoir and we're all waiting for it this coming fall. Have you helped him on the book at all? When was the last time you talked to President Bush?

GONZALES: I actually spoke to him just a few days ago. He called me the afternoon that the report regarding the ending the situations came out and he called to congratulate me. We talked about the fact that he was playing more golf and that he was thankful that he wasn't in Washington having to deal with all of these kinds of issues. I think he is doing well. You know, I think like all of us we look back with great pride in our service to our country. We're also delighted to be back home and to living life a little more normally.

KING: The former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, sir, appreciate your time today.

GONZALES: Thank you, John.

 

John King, USA

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