(Washington, D.C.) - Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray announced that she will vote against the confirmation of attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales.
Murray issued the following statement:
"After studying Alberto Gonzales' record and reviewing his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have concluded that he does not meet the standards required to be attorney general. I will vote against his confirmation when it comes before the full Senate.
I do not relish voting against any president's cabinet nominees. In general, I believe that a president should be able to fill his cabinet with the people he wants. But the position of attorney general is unique in our system of government, and I take my constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent seriously.
The attorney general has a direct impact on the rights, lives, and liberties of every American. He is not merely an advisor to the president. He is the chief law enforcement officer of our country. He may even be called on to investigate wrongdoing by the very president who appointed him. Because of these unique responsibilities, an attorney general must meet certain standards.
In addition to being honest and independent, an attorney general must actively enforce the laws and ensure the public's confidence in our legal system. The attorney general must also display the highest standards of fairness, trust, and respect for the law. Unfortunately, a review of Mr. Gonzales' record in Texas, at the White House, and before the Senate Judiciary Committee shows he falls short of those standards.
First, Mr. Gonzales does not have the independence to be our next attorney general. While early in his career he showed a willingness to follow the law in the face of personal opinions and ideological pressure, the rest of his record shows a troubling pattern of "finding in the law" the answers that his superiors sought. The most troubling example is his work redefining torture in two infamous 2002 memos. Mr. Gonzales approved standards of torture that defy U.S. law, international agreements, and the Constitution. That deeply flawed approach endangered American troops and weakened our standing in the world. Mr. Gonzales' unwillingness to say "no" when the law required it does not reflect the independence needed in America's attorney general.
Independence is especially important to ensure accountability in the executive branch, particularly since there is no longer an independent counsel to investigate executive wrongdoing. Time and again, Mr. Gonzales has stood up for government secrecy and blocked accountability to the American people. He drafted several executive orders delaying the release of presidential papers and played a leading role in blocking the release of documents related to Vice President Cheney's secret energy meetings.
I'm also troubled that Mr. Gonzales will not ensure public confidence in our legal system. The attorney general must be someone that the American people can trust to vigorously protect their rights. Unfortunately, Mr. Gonzales' work on Texas death row clemency appeals is deeply troubling. As then-Governor Bush’s counsel, Mr. Gonzales prepared 57 briefs summarizing the clemency requests of prisoners who were facing execution. In these briefs, Mr. Gonzales left out exculpatory evidence and key facts that might have warranted further review. Clemency was granted in only one case, and Governor Bush proceeded with 150 executions. If Mr. Gonzales was careless in protecting the due process rights of individuals as a governor's counsel, how can we expect him to be more careful as America's attorney general?
While those who know him speak of his honesty, his appearance before the Judiciary Committee raises serious questions. During his seven hours of testimony, he repeatedly refused to answer questions. When he did answer, his responses were at times misleading or incomplete. One example stands out. In 1996, Governor Bush was excused from jury duty in a Texas drunk driving case. Mr. Gonzales accompanied Governor Bush to court that day in 1996. Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Mr. Gonzales in written questions to describe that court appearance "in detail." Mr. Gonzales replied – in writing - that all he did was sit in the courtroom and say he had no objection to Gov. Bush being excused. But the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney all tell a different story. They have said publicly that Mr. Gonzales asked for and got a private meeting with the judge in his chambers. Further, all three say that during that off-the-record meeting Mr. Gonzales sought to have Governor Bush excused. When Senator Leahy asked Mr. Gonzales to explain why he didn't share this information with the Judiciary Committee in his written answer, Mr. Gonzales replied that he was only asked about what happened "in court," presumably to avoid having to explain what may have happened in the judge's chambers. Such a deceptive and incomplete answer does not reflect the honesty needed in our attorney general.
Mr. Gonzales' personal story is inspiring, but I cannot overlook his record in Texas or in the White House. Because Mr. Gonzales lacks the independence and honesty to be attorney general and because his record will not ensure public confidence in the fair administration of justice, I must vote against his confirmation."