This hearing of the Committee on the
Judiciary, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law,
will come to order.
I will recognize myself for a short statement.
It has been nearly 5 months since an unprecedented number
of U.S. attorneys were fired midterm, without cause and without
explanation. Five months have passed since December 7, 2006,
and we are still trying to understand why these talented and
experienced U.S. attorneys were forced to resign.
As the facts unfold, we are left with more questions than
answers. What we have learned so far is troubling and warrants
We have learned that the Bush administration exploited the
change in interim appointment limits of U.S. attorneys by
purging high-performing U.S. attorneys.
When the fired U.S. attorneys received notification that
they would be fired, several were in the midst of high-profile
public corruption investigations involving Republican
We have learned that U.S. attorneys were rated on a removal
list based in large part on whether they were loyal Bushies.
However, after numerous interviews with Justice Department
officials and reviewing of department documents, it is still
unclear who within the Administration was responsible for
placing those particular U.S. attorneys on the list.
The Justice Department testified before this Subcommittee
that the U.S. attorneys were removed for ``performance-related
However, internal department evaluations, letters of
commendation from department officials and numerous awards from
outside groups clearly contradict that testimony. In fact,
mounting evidence suggests that reasons set forth by the
department are misleading, and that the U.S. attorneys were
Although the president has a right to dismiss U.S.
attorneys, he does not have the right to remove them in order
to interfere with ongoing investigations, or to retaliate
against a U.S. attorney for not prosecuting cases that would
benefit a particular political party. Politics should not be
injected into decisions to bring the full force of the law
against an individual.
If even a single U.S. attorney lost his or her job either
for prosecuting Republicans or for refusing to prosecute
Democrats, this would represent a serious threat to the very
notions of fairness on which our justice system rests.
In order to restore the American people's faith in the
administration of justice, we must know with absolute certainty
that those who are charged with crimes are charged based on the
evidence, and not because of political consideration.
Despite our attempts to expedite the Judiciary Committee's
investigation, we have been barred from learning whether these
U.S. attorneys were fired for an improper purpose.
While we appreciate the Justice Department's general
cooperation with our investigation, the department has withheld
materials that are clearly related to the mass firings and were
requested by the Committee, including unredacted documents with
Chairman Conyers has issued a subpoena for their production
and the deadline for their production has passed.
Although the president has publicly pledged to get to the
truth of the matter, the White House continues to be an
obstacle in concluding this investigation.
On March 9th, Chairman Conyers and I sent a letter to White
House Counsel Fred Fielding requesting testimony and documents
from White House officials with direct knowledge of the facts
and circumstances in the U.S. attorneys controversy.
Despite Chairman Conyers' repeated attempts to reach an
agreement on the terms under which White House testimony and
documents will be shared with the Committee, the White House
has refused negotiation.
We continue to be hopeful that the White House will
cooperate with this investigation. However, after nearly 2
months of stonewalling, we still have not received any
information from the White House.
Such tactics do not inspire public confidence in the
Administration but serve only to increase public doubt in the
Administration's integrity and commitment to equal justice
under the law.
Our investigation has also revealed that Administration
officials discussed firing U.S. attorneys while using
Republican National Committee e-mail accounts. As a result,
this Committee has also requested that the Republican National
Committee produce copies of e-mails from White House officials
concerning the issue.
Instead of allowing the RNC to immediately comply with the
request, the White House has slowed the production of documents
by asserting a flimsy argument that they must review all of the
documents for claims of executive privilege.
It is my hope that this morning's testimony from James
Comey, the former Deputy Attorney General, will bring us one
step closer to resolving this matter.
I want to thank Mr. Comey for his gracious cooperation with
our subpoena, and make clear that he is participating in this
hearing under compulsion.
I would now like to recognize my colleague, Mr. Cannon, the
distinguished Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, for his
I thank the Chairlady.
I would like to point out that from the beginning of this,
we have heard the word ``corruption'' bandied about. We now
have thousands and thousands of pages of documents, many
interviews of people, and so far this seems to be a fishing
expedition that has come up dry.
I know the minority is--or the majority, unfortunately--is
wishing or casting its nets and hoping to catch someone from
the White House. But thus far, despite the complaints, there
has been nothing, at least that I can see out there, that
warrants the continued reference to stonewalling and corruption
and other, I think, extreme statements by the majority.
Nevertheless, the minority remains committed to ensuring
that the material facts come out in this matter, the sooner the
Some witnesses whom Committee staff has interviewed have
suggested that Jim Comey was informed about the review of U.S.
attorneys while he was deputy attorney general, knew of
information pertaining to some of the U.S. attorneys whose
resignations were ultimately requested or was consulted about
some of those U.S. attorneys.
We welcome Mr. Comey's testimony so that he can answer our
questions and add to the record of this investigation.
We are not sure that Mr. Comey has all of the information
that pertain to some of our questions.
For example, we are not sure whether Mr. Comey knows that
David Margolis, the top career official at the Department of
Justice, indicated in an interview earlier this week that the
idea of reviewing U.S. attorneys was a good one; that, based on
his knowledge of the relevant information, he generally
endorses the grounds offered for requesting the resignations;
and that he would like for the department to be able to conduct
this kind of review again, and hopes that it can, but fears the
current clamor may chill future efforts. Heavy on the clamor.
We also are not sure if Mr. Comey has a fair sense of the
picture emerging from all the interviews, testimony and
document reviewed thus far. We hope that his ability to offer
testimony has not been limited or tainted by selective leaks of
information from the private interviews that have occurred.
Those leaks have generated the impression in the major
media that we believe runs counter to the thrust of the
information we have collected and reviewed to date.
Nevertheless, we hope that this will be an informative
hearing. And we do know that Mr. Comey has been identified as a
witness who may have material information concerning the events
that we are examining. Therefore, we welcome him today.
In private discussions, I have indicated my admiration for
Mr. Comey, who has performed a wonderful service for America.
I hope that we can find out what he knows and do it very
quickly, so that he can get back to his important work and this
Committee can as well.
Would the gentleman yield, just a second, before
he yields back?
I know this is out of regular order, but I wanted
to just take exception to one thing that the gentleman said.
I personally am hoping that there is nothing that we find
at the end of this investigation. And your statement to the
effect that we are hoping for some kind of sinister result, I
don't think I want to just let it pass quietly into the night.
It would be a profound statement about our justice system
if we found that political and presidential involvement in
matters that should be outside politics and in the justice
system were--that these matters were influencing the outcomes
of prosecutions. And I think it would be devastating to all of
This inquiry, from my personal perspective, is not about
finding wrongdoing. I hope there is no wrongdoing. I think we
have an obligation to get to the bottom of this, and to
reassure the public that there is no wrongdoing if in fact that
is the case.
If it is not the case, then I think it is our
responsibility to expose that.
And I appreciate the gentleman yielding to me, because I
personally took that----
Well, I think the gentleman needed it.
And reclaiming my time, as is almost always the case, I
agree with the gentleman. And if there is any implication of
any personal offense, I apologize for that. None was intended.
Nevertheless, the course of this investigation has thus far
turned up nothing.
The gentleman can take, I think, great comfort from the
interview that Mr. Margolis gave about the integrity of the
system. And if we were fair and balanced in how we were
reviewing this, I don't think that I would necessarily be in a
position to have to try and bring some balance back into it by
pointing out that thus far nothing has occurred that should
shake the confidence of people in the system.
If the gentleman would----
The balance of politics--I grant you a balance
of politics and fairness, but we need to examine that. And that
is why Mr. Comey, I think, will be an important witness.
And I realize I am out of time, but I would ask for
unanimous consent for an additional minute to yield to the
And I won't take an additional minute.
I just want to point out to the gentleman, that obviously
hadn't read the front page of this morning's Washington Post,
which suggests that the Justice Department is now doing an
investigation of whether there were any illegal things taking
place. And they are now believing that something illegal has
So this notion that you have that nothing sinister has
taken place is just not borne out by what appears to be coming
to light here.
Well, reclaiming my time----
The time of the gentleman has expired.
Madam Chair, I ask for an additional minute----
Without objection, so ordered.
The fact is this has been a trial by leaks. And
the press has been, I think, a willing accomplice to try and
taint the Administration because that sells newspapers. I don't
think that much as actually come out that is substantial in
The fact that the Justice Department is doing an internal
review has been known by, I think, Members of this Committee
for some period of time. The fact that it appears in The
Washington Post is not indicative of what we ought to be doing
or where we ought to be going or justification for what we have
done, especially since those kinds of stories have typically
been subject to leaks that I thought we agreed we would not do
in the course of this investigation.
And with that, Madam Chair, I yield back.
I thank the gentleman for yielding back.
And I would now like to recognize Mr. Conyers, a
distinguished Member of the Subcommittee and the Chairman of
the Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. Conyers?
Thank you very much, Committee Chairman
I first begin by commending the Subcommittee on Commercial
and Administrative Law for the excellent way that you have
comported yourself and moved forward in this investigation.
I wish we could assure everybody that this will be a very
brief meeting, and that this matter will be over quickly. I
have no idea how long we are going to take.
I am very pleased, I can tell you, that James Comey, the
former deputy attorney general of the Department of Justice, is
here with us today. And so we take another important step at
getting at the truth in our investigation of the recent mass
firings of U.S. attorneys.
And we have learned something. We know that the firings
were apparently part of a long-laid plan involving the highest
levels of the Department of Justice and the White House.
We are also aware that misstatements were made concerning
the reasons for the firings by high-ranking members of the
Department of Justice, up to and including the Attorney
We know that several department officials have resigned in
connection with this matter--certainly not the witness with us
today--and that at least one such official has asserted her
fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination.
We have also found that numerous questionable, if not
improper, communications were made by Members of Congress to
several of the United States attorneys concerning pending
prosecutions before they were fired, and that efforts were made
after the firings to discourage United States attorneys from
cooperating in our inquiry.
We are aware that thousands of e-mails relating to this
matter have been lost, misplaced, or destroyed in potential
violation of Federal law.
We are also aware that the department has opened up two
separate internal inquiries related to these matters.
But what we don't know, as we meet this morning, is who
actually made the decision to place the U.S. attorneys on the
firing list. The attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, has told us
that it was not him. Mr. Kyle Sampson has denied making the
substantive judgments. We have interviewed other senior
officials in the department, and all deny making the actual
decision to place the names on the list.
The role of the White House remains elusive, in large part
due to their failure, as referred to by the Chairwoman, to
cooperate with the Committee's inquiry.
And so, against this backdrop, we are fortunate to have
today's witness, who has a unique perspective on the recent
firings of the eight United States attorneys by the Bush
administration because he worked closely with many of them as
fellow United States attorneys and he supervised them and their
offices for substantial periods of time.
Mr. Comey has a superb reputation as a career Federal
prosecutor and an effective deputy attorney general and is
generally regarded by all as a straight-shooter who has always
embodied the highest and best traditions of the Department of
And so, we proceed on today's hearings, knowing that we owe
the American people the duty to learn, to share with them the
true reasons for these firings, because the Department of
Justice and the prosecutorial integrity of our Nation is coming
under scrutiny. We expect that we will be able to assess what
is true and what isn't.
And it is in this spirit that I come to the hearing to
congratulate the Subcommittee and its Chairman and also the
witness that is before us today.
And I thank the gentlelady.
I thank the gentleman for his statement.
Without objection, other Members' opening statements will
be included in the record.
Without objection, the Chair will be authorized to declare
a recess of the hearing.
I am now pleased to introduce the witness for today's
hearing. James Comey is a former deputy attorney general of the
United States, serving in President George W. Bush's
administration. As deputy attorney general, Mr. Comey was the
second-highest ranking official in the United States Department
of Justice and ran the day-to-day operations of the department.
He was appointed to the position in 2003, after serving as
the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Prior
to that, Mr. Comey served as managing assistant U.S. attorney
in charge of the Richmond division of the U.S. Attorney's
Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
In August 2005, Mr. Comey left the Justice Department, and
he is currently general counsel and senior vice president of
We welcome you for your appearance today.
I want to remind Subcommittee Members that you will be
permitted to ask questions, subject to the 5-minute limit. And
we will hopefully have two rounds of questioning, depending on
how many questions remain after the first round.
And I want to note also to the Members and to our witness,
we are expecting the Hate Crimes Bill on the floor this
morning. So there may be interruptions. And we want to
apologize ahead of time for those interruptions.
I will begin the first round of questions myself, subject
to the 5-minute rule.
I would ask our witness to please state your name for the
TESTIMONY OF MR. JAMES B. COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY
GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
My name is James Comey. I go by Jim Comey. And
as you said, Madam Chairman, I am currently the general counsel
of Lockheed Martin and served as the deputy attorney general
from 2003 to 2005.
What were your responsibilities as deputy
attorney general concerning U.S. attorneys?
I was the direct supervisor of all the U.S.
attorneys, and so dealt with them quite frequently on a variety
of matters: resolving disputes, talking with them about
resources, trying to support them in any way that I could.
And both in your role as deputy attorney
general and as a U.S. attorney serving on the attorney
general's advisory committee under Attorney General Ashcroft,
how familiar are you with the work and the performance of the
six former U.S. attorneys who testified before this Committee
last month, including David Iglesias, Carol Lam, John McKay,
Paul Charlton, Dan Bogden and Bud Cummins?
I knew each of those people from being a
colleague of theirs when I was U.S. attorney of Manhattan and
as their supervisor. I interacted with them and their districts
in different degrees.
I would say that I knew five of the six better. Mr. Cummins
I didn't have much contact with. I had quite a bit of contact
with, for example, Mr. Bogden, Mr. Iglesias and Mr. Charlton,
because they were implementing a violent crime initiative that
I was in charge of in their districts.
Okay. And are you familiar with Attorney
General Gonzales's former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson?
Okay. Mr. Sampson has testified to the Senate
and to the House that he was involved beginning in early 2005,
when you were deputy attorney general, in an effort that
involved the White House and the Department of Justice and that
culminated in the termination of the eight U.S. attorneys in
In particular, he has stated that he consulted you in 2005,
that he asked, ``If you wanted to ask a handful of United
States attorneys to resign, who would you have on your list?,''
and that he shared with you that this inquiry had come from the
Do you recall Mr. Sampson telling you that about the White
House and asking you that question?
I do not. I remember meeting with Mr. Sampson, a
date that I couldn't peg until I went through my old calendars
and now I believe was February 28th of 2005.
It was a 15-minute meeting. Two topics were covered, as I
recall. And one was him asking me, as best I can recall, who
did I think were the weakest U.S. attorneys. I have some
recollection of him giving me a preamble, something like, ``If
there is ever an opportunity to replace weak people or if we
ever look at our U.S. attorneys, who do you think are the weak
I am quite certain he didn't mention the White House. I
think that would have stuck in my mind.
And in response to the question, which was an echo of a
question that the prior chief of staff, Mr. David Ayres, for
John Ashcroft had asked me a year earlier, I gave him, off the
top of my head, my reactions, some people that I thought were
weak managers and were among our less productive, less
effective U.S. attorneys.
Okay. Was Kevin Ryan of San Francisco one of
the weak performers that you identified in that conversation?
And other than Mr. Ryan, were there any other
U.S. attorneys that were terminated in 2006 included among the
weak performers that you identified in that conversation?
I don't believe so, no.
I would like to ask you some specific questions, Mr. Comey,
about what Mr. Sampson has testified was the first list that he
compiled of possible U.S. attorneys to be terminated, which was
sent to Harriet Miers at the White House in early March of
2005, shortly after your meeting with him.
I want you to look at the document that was produced by the
Department of Justice in response to our request and bears the
identifying numbers of OAG-511. Do you have that document in
front of you?
Yes, I do.
Let me just grab it, so that I have it readily
available in front of me.
You will see that some information has been redacted from
the document, and that it doesn't show that copies were sent to
anyone inside the Department of Justice.
Do you recall seeing this document or any other versions of
it in 2005?
No. I never saw it or any version of it.
I guess I should have said this in response to your earlier
question: I was not aware that there was any kind of process
going on or that my very brief conversation with Mr. Sampson
was part of some process to figure out a group of U.S.
attorneys to fire. So I was not aware of a list.
Okay. But have you seen it since then?
Yes, ma'am. I saw it for the first time when
Committee investigators interviewed me, and then I looked at it
briefly again this morning.
Looking at the bottom of the first page, which is OAG-5 of
the document, as we understand it, U.S. attorneys whose names
are in bold were identified as those that Mr. Sampson was
recommending retaining as strong U.S. attorneys who have
produced, managed well, and exhibited loyalty to the president
and the attorney general.
U.S. attorneys whose names were stricken out or had a line
drawn through them were being recommended for removal as weak
U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and
prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, et
cetera, and while--there was no recommendation with respect to
other U.S. attorneys who were described as not having
distinguished themselves either positively or negatively.
Is that your understanding of this chart as well?
That is what it says. And I don't know any
independently of how they put this together, but you have read
Okay. Thank you.
My time has expired.
Madam Chair, may I just suggest that every 5
minutes or so, if there are questions I really want to ask, I
will--if you just run the clock, I will turn back in. But let
me ask unanimous consent from everyone we have, Republicans and
Democrats here, that you just be given the next 10 minutes to
ask questions, if you would like.
Any objections from the Subcommittee? We can
continue in that manner.
And just jump in any time, Mr. Cannon, that you would like
to ask a question. Are you seeking time at this moment?
No, I actually--I think that if you, yourself,
do the questioning, I think that would make it a much more
coherent presentation, and you guys are the ones that are
looking for information.
So perhaps after--if you take 10 minutes, like I suggested
in my unanimous consent, then we will take a look and see if
there are things we need to ask. Otherwise, I am inclined to
just have you continue to----
Well, I would also like to give the other
Members of the Subcommittee----
Certainly there are other people that do. That
is why I limit it to 10 minutes.
And it is certainly up to the discretion of the
Chairman and the Ranking Member.
I do have votes in the
Financial Services Committee, and did have a few questions if
it was possible. But I certainly, obviously understand the
Chairman is conducting the meeting.
I am only interested in having this work as
quickly and as efficiently for Mr. Comey as possible. And if
the Chair would like to recognize Mr. Feeney so he can ask
questions and go, I am happy with that.
Certainly. Let me just continue with one last
question, and then we will--if there is, sort of, a natural
break in the questions, and then I will recognize Mr. Feeney
Did you have any idea that this chart existed and was being
transmitted to the White House at this time concerning the U.S.
attorneys who you supervised and were familiar with?
No, I did not.
Okay. Thank you.
I will now recognize Mr. Feeney for 5 minutes of
Thank you. I sure appreciate the courtesy of
Mr. Comey, did anybody ever, during discussions about
review of performance of attorneys or removal of attorneys,
suggest to you that impacting ongoing investigations was one of
the considerations in who to remove or how to review their
Did anybody suggest that in order to reward or
punish somebody for their political affiliation or their
political leanings that they should be dismissed? Or was that
suggested as a criteria for review of their performance?
Not in any discussion I was ever present for.
I have no further questions.
Is the gentleman yielding back his time?
I do. And I once again want to thank the
Chairwoman and the Ranking Member.
At this time, because we do have our Chairman
of our full Committee joining us here this morning, I would
like to give him an opportunity to go next and ask 5 minutes of
Mr. Conyers, you are recognized.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your appearance here, Mr. Comey. We appreciate
it very much.
The testimony so far in this matter is that no one from the
Department of Justice has taken responsibility for suggesting
the dismissals of Ms. Lam or Mr. Iglesias, Bogden, Charlton or
You have known all of them. Do the reasons offered by the
department for their terminations ring true to you?
I am not sure, Mr. Chairman, that I know all the
reasons that have been offered.
My experience with the U.S. attorneys just listed was very
positive. For example, Mr. Bogden in Las Vegas did a bang-up
job on the violent crime program that we asked him to help
with. And I had numerous positive interactions with the others.
So the ones that I have read in the newspaper have not been
consistent with my experience. But, again, I have been gone
since August of 2005. But I had very positive encounters with
Any particular recollections of your
associations with Ms. Lam?
I dealt with Ms. Lam as a colleague as U.S.
attorney in Manhattan; I dealt with Ms. Lam as the deputy
attorney general. I visited her office, talked to her troops.
The only substantive interaction I recall with her was I,
at one point, talked to her about gun cases and spoke to her
about the importance of that priority in the department.
But my interactions with her were always positive.
Now, about Ms. Monica Goodling, have you heard concerns
from anyone in the department about efforts by Ms. Goodling or
anyone else to take political or ideological considerations
into account in the hiring of line-level U.S. attorneys or
other career applicants?
I had heard rumors to that effect, and I have
read in the newspaper most recently about an investigation on
that subject. But, again, when I say I had heard rumors--after
I left the Government, in the last 6 months or so.
Now, let me ask you just a little bit more
specifically about several of the U.S. attorneys whose names
were stricken and were recommended for removal on the list of
March 2005, and who testified before the Committee.
If you turn to the chart OAG-N6, the second page in this
document--again, a number of names have been redacted from this
version of the chart. But what I would like to find out is, can
you identify any names of U.S. attorneys on this page who have
been stricken and recommended for removal?
It looks like, if I understand the code
correctly, that the crossing out of Bud Cummins's name and
Carol Lam's name means that they are people who were
recommended for removal.
Yes. Thank you.
Let's start with Ms. Lam. Was she included among the weak
performers who you identified to Mr. Sampson?
I don't believe so, no.
Thank you. Did you, in 2005 or any time,
consider Ms. Lam a weak U.S. attorney who was an ineffectual
manager or prosecutor?
No, I didn't.
Or did you perceive her to be one who chafed
against Administration initiatives?
No, I didn't.
Did you communicate any negative assessment of
her to Mr. Sampson, or recommend that she be removed?
The time of the gentleman has expired.
I will stop at that point. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. Cannon, questions?
Thank you. Actually, I do have one follow-up
I personally thought Ms. Lam was a very competent human
being. You have mentioned that you talked to her once about
guns. Can you tell us the substance of what you said to her at
Yes, certainly. Attorney General Ashcroft--this
would have been, I think, in 2004--asked me to speak to each of
the U.S. attorneys who were in the bottom 10, in terms of gun
prosecutions--and I think it was calculated per capita, to take
into account the size of districts.
And so I spoke to each of those 10 U.S. attorneys that
included Ms. Lam and told her what I told all the others, and
that is that this is a priority of the Department of Justice,
that if there is a contribution to be made by the U.S.
Attorney's Office in reducing gun crime in the district, that
is if criminals with guns are not getting the kind of time that
they ought to in the State system, for example, that we as
Federal prosecutors wanted to make an impact there, and it was
a priority of the department. So I needed those U.S. attorneys
to focus on why their gun numbers were where they were and
whether there was a contribution to be made that they weren't
I said to each of them, ``I am not asking you to make gun
cases for the sake of pumping your numbers. But if there is a
contribution to be made in your district, please focus on it
and see if you can lend a hand in prosecuting gun crimes.''
So that was the conversation I had with Ms. Lam, as well as
the other nine.
So was it by way of admonishment, to some
I guess to a certain extent. My tone wasn't
admonishing, but I learned that it is a big deal any time the
deputy attorney general calls and wants to talk to you about
And I wasn't threatening or beating up on them. I was
simply saying, ``Look, you are in the bottom 10. Maybe that is
where you should be. Maybe your local prosecutors are really
hammering gun possession crime; they don't need you. But figure
out whether you are needed, and focus on it.''
Mr. Margolis apparently said in his interview
that Ms. Lam was a bit insubordinate, and even suggested that
she might agree with that characterization.
My view of her--and I only met her in the hearing here--was
that she was pretty tough-minded and pretty clear. And she had
some pretty good ideas about what she ought to do with guns.
I take it from your statement here that you were asking her
to look at it. So this is early in the history of the gun issue
with her. And you were saying, ``Look at what is happening in
the State, with local prosecutions, and then decide whether you
need to adjust your priorities.''
So you were not mandating that adjustment, I take it,
Correct. I was urging a very close look, because
her district, along with the nine others, were in the bottom
group, to make sure there wasn't a contribution that we were
missing the opportunity to make.
And I don't know what happened thereafter to the gun
numbers. It never came back to my attention. So I don't know
whether there was a response in some way in her district that
changed the number of cases they did.
At this point, I think that is all the questions I have.
The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Johnson, is recognized for
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Mr. Comey, the conversation that you had with the 10,
including Ms. Lam, about the relatively low number of Federal
gun prosecutions in her district, did that indicate any
dissatisfaction by you with her?
Not personally. I think the fact that I was
calling was designed--I mean, I intended it to really energize
the U.S. attorney to focus on the issue.
But as I have explained to people a bunch of times, when I
was running the U.S. Attorney's Office in Richmond, Virginia,
there was a real need for a Federal impact on gun possession
crimes. Because people weren't getting the kind of time they
needed to reduce violent crime in the State system.
When I moved to being U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Bob
Morgenthau and his office were all over gun possession crimes,
and doing it very aggressively. So my approach changed. That is
why I didn't want to mandate to a U.S. attorney, ``Do X number
of gun cases.'' What I wanted them to do was to focus on it and
figure out where they could make a contribution.
Nothing in that conversation or about that
conversation would be meant to suggest that her performance was
deficient and that she should be terminated. Is that a fair
That is a fair characterization.
Of the other 10 U.S. attorneys who you called
who had relatively low prosecution numbers, how many of them
were terminated in 2005 or 2006?
None of them, to my knowledge.
In your opinion, would the number of such gun
prosecutions be a reliable indicator of whether a U.S. attorney
was performing well or should be terminated?
No. It tells you nothing in a vacuum.
As I said, just comparing my experience in Manhattan to my
experience in Richmond, my gun numbers per capita dropped off
dramatically when I became U.S. attorney in Manhattan. And I
thought I was doing an okay job.
Overall, what was your evaluation of Ms. Lam
as a U.S. attorney?
I thought she was a fine U.S. attorney. I never
had experience with insubordination with her. My encounters
were perfectly pleasant. My only substantive encounter, as I
said, was in connection with our gun discussion.
Does your assessment of her include an
understanding and an appreciation of her work on immigration?
I don't think I ever focused on her work on
immigration. At least I don't remember discussing it or
understanding what her work was on immigration.
Do you have any information or idea from whom,
whether in the department, the White House or elsewhere, Mr.
Sampson got his evaluation and recommendation to terminate Ms.
I do not. And as I said, I was not aware there
was a process going on, frankly. I thought it was a casual
comment in the course of a very brief meeting.
Do you have any information, one way or the
other, as to whether the decision to terminate her was related
in any way to her work on the public corruption cases involving
Duke Cunningham or others?
I have no information about that.
Let's turn to Mr. Cummings. Was Mr. Cummings
included among the weak performers who you identified to Mr.
Did you, in 2005 or at any time, consider Mr.
Cummings a weak U.S. attorney who was an ineffectual manager or
prosecutor or who chafed against Administration initiatives?
Did you communicate any negative assessment of
Mr. Cummings to Mr.
Sampson or recommend that Mr. Cummings be
What was your view of Mr. Cummings?
I didn't have much of a view of Mr. Cummings. I
knew him, knew he was a very pleasant fellow. But he and his
district had not crossed my radar screen, which, from the
deputy's perspective, is actually a very good thing. Bad things
tend to reach the deputy, and so, if you didn't reach me, you
must be doing okay.
And you pretty much considered him to be
Yes, that was my sense.
Do you have any information or idea from whom
or whether in the department, the White House, or elsewhere
that Mr. Sampson--well, let me rephrase this question.
Do you know of how Mr. Sampson received his information and
came to the conclusion after an evaluation to recommend
termination of Mr. Cummins?
I do not.
Let me ask you to turn to page three of the
chart, page OAG-N8. Can you identify the names, after you have
reached that page?
Are you there?
Can you identify any names of U.S. attorneys
on this page who have been stricken and recommended for
There is only one name, and it has been
stricken. That is John McKay's. So according to the legend
here, he has been recommended for removal on this chart.
The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. Cannon? You still have time.
Thank you. I appreciate that. At this point I
don't have any questions. And if you want to just continue with
your side, that would be fine.
Mr. Jordan, I don't think, has questions either. He
indicated to me he hasn't.
Okay. We will continue forward. Mr. Watt, the
gentleman from North Carolina, is recognized for 5 minutes.
And thank you for being here, Mr. Comey.
You identified Mr. McKay as one of the people who was
recommended for removal, and he was, in fact, removed. Was Mr.
McKay included among the weak performers who you identified to
Did you consider him an effectual manager or
prosecutor or someone who chafed at Administration initiatives?
Did you communicate any negative assessment about
Mr. McKay to Mr.
It was suggested that concerns had been raised
about Mr. McKay while Larry Thompson was the deputy, relating
to a murder of an assistant U.S. attorney named Thomas Wales in
which Mr. McKay had requested some action by the department;
that Mr. Sampson would have checked with you as the current
deputy about that before using that as a basis for recommending
Mr. McKay be placed on the termination list; and that this may
have been a reason he appeared on the list in March of 2005.
Do you have a response to that suggestion?
I don't remember discussing that tragedy with
anyone other than Mr. McKay. And it was simply briefly to talk
to him about how awful it was, and for him to express his--he
cared very passionately about finding the person who killed his
AUSA. And I don't remember any other discussion besides that.
Were you aware of any impropriety or
inappropriate behavior by Mr. McKay in connection with that
Some concerns were expressed about Mr. McKay after you left
as deputy attorney general, and after the March 2005 list was
put together, concerning the LInX information-sharing system,
and some suggestions that this may have had something to do
with his staying on the removal list.
How would you respond to that?
I don't know whether that played a role on him
ending up with a line through his name.
I guess I wasn't supposed to have favorites, but John McKay
was one of my favorites, because he is a very charming and, as
I said, passionate person. And he cared about something I cared
an awful lot about, which was information-sharing.
And he and I both believed that it was absurd that our
children could Google and touch billions of pieces of
information, but someone chasing a serial rapist could only
find out if other police departments had seen a green car by
calling every police department and asking if they had seen a
And we both had this vision that we ought to leave a legacy
of law enforcement being able to Google and catch bad guys. And
that is what LInX was, an effort to put that technology in
So I worked with him pretty closely. I was inspired by him,
and thought he had a terrific idea and was making a real
difference with this LInX program.
So the characterization that the Seattle Times
reported, and which it quoted you as saying that Mr. McKay was
a person of ``passion and energy and could wear his heart on
his sleeve, but never had any issues with him being
insubordinate,'' would be a correct assessment?
Yes, sir, that is correct.
And I take it, then, that your overall view of
Mr. McKay was that he was a strong performer.
Yes, sir, very favorable.
Do you have any information or idea from the
source of the department, the White House or elsewhere that Mr.
Sampson may have gotten his evaluation or recommendation to
terminate Mr. McKay?
I have no idea where it came from.
Out of the three U.S. attorneys who were
terminated who testified before this Committee and were
recommended for termination on the 2005 list, would you
disagree that performance justified termination of any of the
three of those individuals?
As of the time I left, I was not aware of a
performance-related reason that the three folks we have
discussed should be terminated.
And in contrast, if you turn back to page one of
the chart, that is OAG-N6, is there a U.S. attorney whose name
is listed in bold on that page as someone recommended to be
retained as a strong U.S. attorney who had ``produced, managed
well, and exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney
general,'' can you find that person?
Yes, sir. Mr. Ryan.
And is that the same Mr. Ryan who you had
identified just a few minutes earlier as one of the weak
performers that you identified?
Yes, sir, I had.
And a lot of people have been hurt in this process, and I
don't mean to hurt Mr. Ryan by revealing that I made that
recommendation. He is a fine guy. He just had management
challenges in that office that were fairly serious. But I hope
he has landed on his feet and is doing well.
The time of the gentleman has expired.
Thank you, ma'am.
Madam Chair, I don't think our side has
questions. But my two Members have other commitments. If we
could just have an agreement that I will take 5 minutes--or
have the opportunity to take 5 minutes after each of your
witnesses, they may want to leave. And I don't have any
questions at this point.
I am amenable to that suggestion.
We will continue. Mr. Cohen is recognized, the gentleman
from Tennessee, for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Firstly, Mr. Comey, I have, kind of, perused some of this
material here. And I don't know who you knew at the New York
magazine, but I would pay for that article. That was great.
I think my mother wrote it. [Laughter.]
Well, she is a good writer. And I think she has
You have got a good vitae. I am impressed.
I read that at one point that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers had
suggested replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys. Did you have
knowledge of that plot or plan at one point?
No, I had never heard of it before I read about
it in the newspaper.
Had that ever happened in history, that there
was this, like, ``wipe them all off the ship''?
Again, my history doesn't go back that far. I
have some recollection that at the beginning of the Clinton
administration, the sitting U.S. attorneys were asked for their
But they were taking out the Bush guys.
Right. But in terms of during a term, at least
not in my experience.
Do you have any reasonable idea in the ideas of
justice and promoting the American way that that would happen,
why that would occur or why they would think about that?
I don't. I don't know what folks would be
thinking who would suggest that. It would be very disruptive.
And that may be why it was not done. I hope it was why it was
Did you ever have any dealings with Mr. Rove or
Never with Mr. Rove. I don't think I have ever
Ms. Miers, yes, when she was White House counsel and I was
deputy attorney general.
And what was her role as far as personnel and
politics at the Department of Justice?
I never had any interaction with her on either
of those subjects. We would talk primarily about issues, legal
issues that needed input, that related, for example, to
pardons. It was a direct contact between the deputy attorney
general and the White House counsel to discuss pardon
recommendations, for example. But never about politics or
hiring at the Department of Justice.
One of the criterias that were laid out for
looking at who would be considered worthy of keeping strong and
weak was exhibited loyalty to the president. What do you think
that term means, in terms of the Department of Justice?
That is a very good question. I don't know
exactly what they meant by that phrase.
The Department of Justice, in my view, is run by political
appointees of the president. The U.S. attorneys are political
appointees of the president.
But once they take those jobs and run this institution, it
is very important, in my view, for that institution to be like
any other in American life, that--because my people had to
stand up before juries of all stripes, talk to sheriffs of all
stripes, judges of all stripes. They had to be seen as the good
guys, and not as either this Administration or that
Administration. We just couldn't get our work done if we were
seen that way.
So the trick in the Department of Justice was to have an
organization run by political appointees who recognize that
they have a special trust to protect this institution and to
make sure it remains an other in American life so it can serve
all Americans. I mean, that is what the Department of Justice
That is what I see it as. And I couldn't
understand and don't understand exhibited loyalty to the
president. I mean, that doesn't--seems like not even a factor.
It is so political. And I am not sure what that means. And that
raises a question.
Do you have any idea--when you left the Department of
Justice, how would you rate the morale there?
I guess I can't speak for my own staff, but I
think it was fairly high.
I mean, the Department of Justice is made up of 110,000
people who you don't see if you are in Washington. That is why
I traveled so much as the DAG, because my troops were all over
the place: in Federal prisons guarding prisoners, executing
search warrants, protecting victims. And they do it out in the
field primarily in the Department of Justice.
And when you visit those people, they are a fired-up group.
They love doing good for a living. It is a pretty neat thing to
get paid to do good for a living. And they treasure it.
And whenever people talk about morale, the great hope for
the Department of Justice, even as morale may have been hurt by
this, is that those fired-up people who love what they do still
love it and are not going to let anything get in the way of
Do you have any idea what the morale is at the
Department of Justice now from contacts with others based on
information and belief?
I think folks are having a tough time now. This
is a tough period of time for the department.
You loved the Department of Justice, and it is
obvious from your testimony if anything was done to--it has
been weakened, has it not, because of this situation, this
I sure hope not. Because when I think of the
department, again, I think of the whole, all 110,000 people.
Certainly, it has caused a morale hit here at main Justice,
the mothership. But I hope it doesn't affect that which is
essential about this institution, and that is the ability to do
good every day and to protect people and to help people.
And I just count on the fact that I know how good the
people are out there doing the work, that FBI agents executed a
search warrant, I am sure, someplace in the country this
morning and risked their lives. And they are doing it because
they love to do it, and----
If somebody that was the head of this department
took actions that may weaken the department, would they be put
on the weak list, that might be those that, you know, should
The time of the gentleman has expired, but we
will allow the witness to answer.
I would hope the time expiring would help me as
I would like to ask for 30 extra seconds.
You know, in many ways I miss the department
terribly, but in other ways I enjoy being a private citizen.
I don't think that is for me to say. I didn't put together
any lists. I don't understand this code, frankly. And so, if I
could, I would like to take a pass on that one.
You will take it. Thank you, sir.
Okay. Mr. Cannon is recognized.
It is obvious that you love the department. And may I just,
without asking a question, just make the point that what the
department does is vitally important to America, and we agree
It is a wonderful institution. It is an institution that
has developed wonderful processes, that are complicated, over a
long period of time.
And that I am hopeful that we can get through this
investigation as quickly as possible so that the danger you
have referred to that may be happening to the morale and
institution of what you called the mothership is very important
to America and that we need to solve this problem, get through
it, and then let the Administration deal with how they adjust
after we get through.
And with that, Madam Chair, I would yield back.
We do have substantially more questions to get through, so
we will begin a second round of questioning. And I will
recognize myself to begin that second round.
I want to go back--I believe Mr. Watt had started to ask
you a series of questions about Mr. McKay.
Are you aware of the fact that in connection with the 2004
election, just a few months before the March list was prepared,
that there were concerns raised by Republicans and others in
Washington about Mr. McKay not pursuing an alleged voter-fraud
case in an election in the State?
I had never heard that, and know of it only what
I have seen in the newspaper.
Do you have any information, one way or the
other, as to whether complaints about Mr. McKay's actions or
lack of actions on these vote-fraud allegations went to the
White House or anybody else at the Department of Justice?
I don't know.
Okay. Thank you.
I would like to now ask you some questions about Mr.
Charlton and Mr. Bogden. Those two were both terminated, and
testified before this Committee, but were first identified for
possible termination in early 2006, shortly after you left the
department. And I realize that.
Did you ever indicate to Mr. Sampson anything negative
about Mr. Charlton----
Or his performance?
What was your view of Mr. Charlton as a U.S.
I thought he was a very strong U.S. attorney,
one of the best. And I had dealt with him as a colleague when I
was U.S. attorney. And I had dealt with him in particular on
the violent crime impact initiative that we had in his district
and Iglesias's and Bogden's.
Well, there has been some suggestion that one
of the reasons why he was placed on the termination list or was
maintained on the termination list was because of his decision
to ask the attorney general to reconsider a decision to seek
the death penalty in a death penalty case.
What is your reaction to that claim?
I don't have any personal knowledge of that.
There wasn't much--in fact, I don't think there was anything
more important that I did as deputy attorney general than make
recommendations on death penalty cases, whether to seek the
ultimate sanction for somebody. I always welcomed U.S.
attorneys talking to me about it, giving me input.
I remember--and I can't remember all the details--Mr.
Charlton once calling me to talk to me about a case to give me
input that wasn't in the papers that I had seen. And he turned
me around on a particular case and how to approach a case, as I
recall, when Attorney General Ashcroft was there.
Paul Charlton was a very experienced, still is, very smart,
very honest and able person. And I respected him a great deal
and would always listen to what he had to say.
So that was a case that you recall, not the
details of where presumably you guys wanted to seek the death
penalty, he had talked to you about that case and managed to
actually convince you that perhaps that wasn't the sanction
that was warranted in that case?
I think it was a case where we had sought the
death penalty, and the defendant wanted to plead guilty to life
without parole. I think in the first instance we had rejected
And, as I recall, Mr. Charlton called me and talked to me
and said, ``I have got to get you to take another look at that;
let me explain why,'' and made a very convincing case. And my
recollection is that he turned me around on it.
And I concluded that his concern was particularly for the
victim's family, and that he was concerned they would be
traumatized again. And they were passionate that they wanted to
resolve this on a life plea.
So he turned me around on it. And my recollection is I
changed my recommendation. And I think I convinced John
Ashcroft to turn around on it.
So based on the fact that he had successfully
brought new information to your attention which made you change
your mind on a case, would that be a legitimate basis in the
future for them saying, ``He deserves to be fired because he
tried to talk to us about another isolated case in which we
were seeking the death penalty and perhaps he felt that wasn't
All I can do is speak about myself. I would
never not only not discourage that kind of thing, I would
encourage it. Because I needed to hear from the people in the
field who knew these cases, because I am trying to make these
decisions off a notebook in Washington, D.C., and I can't feel
the pain of the victim's families. And he can. And you always
want that input.
I appreciate that.
Are you aware of Mr. Charlton's work with respect to
charges concerning alleged improper actions by Representative
Renzi, based on media reports or other sources?
I have read some about it in the newspaper. I
knew nothing about it when I was in the Government.
Do you have any information, one way or the
other, about whether that work played any role in the decision
to remove him as a U.S. attorney?
I don't know.
Let me ask you about another U.S. attorney who
was placed on the termination list in early 2006, Dan Bogden.
Did you ever indicate to Mr. Sampson anything negative about
Mr. Bogden or his performance as a U.
Do you believe that he lacked energy in his
handling of his office, as has been claimed by some?
My time has expired. I would like to recognize
Mr. Johnson for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
With respect to Mr. Bogden, what was your view of Mr.
Bogden as a U.S. attorney?
I thought he was a very good U.S. attorney. He
is as straight as a Nevada highway, and a fired-up guy.
And we had this violent crime impact team program that we
asked ATF to lead, and we chose places to do it that were
experiencing a spike in violent crime. But not every place that
was experiencing a spike in violent crime; we wanted to put it
where we had a fired-up U.S. attorney who could watch over it
and make it work and had great relations with State and local
That is why we chose Mr. Bogden's district in Las Vegas,
because they were experiencing a spike in violent crime. But
that is the kind of U.S. attorney he was. He was loved in that
And I went once to announce the program with him and 6
months later to give a report card to the people of Las Vegas,
and he had made tremendous strides on violent crime. I thought
he was very good.
Do you know anything about his performance
that would have justified his removal?
No, I don't.
Do you have any idea as to where or from what
source Mr. Sampson got his information upon which he evaluated
and then recommended termination of Mr. Bogden?
I do not.
With respect to Mr. Iglesias, who testified
before this Committee, going back to the 2005 chart, you will
note that his name was bolded as a strong U.S. attorney who
should be retained. Is that correct?
Yes, I see it in bold on page ``multiple zero''-
Do you agree with that assessment?
Well, I am not sure what the criteria are, so I
am not sure I could agree or disagree about loyalty to the
president and attorney general.
But I thought he was a very effective U.S. attorney. He
was, sort of, the Bogden of New Mexico: very straight, very
So you would agree that he was a strong U.S.
attorney who should have been retained?
And can you give us any other information
about his performance? Apparently you saw him as being--I mean,
you just said that. Anything else you would like to say about
No. I had contact with it again through the
Violent Crime Impact Team program, where he did it in
Albuquerque and did it very, very effectively. Albuquerque
experienced dramatic drop in homicides in particular and
shootings, as I recall, in their most problem-plagued
neighborhoods as a result of that program.
I thought he was very effective. I, obviously, as with the
others, I knew him as a colleague first and then as his boss,
and had a very positive view of him.
When Mr. Iglesias, as you may know, was added
to the list to be terminated in November of 2006, the only
performance-related criticism that we have heard of him was
that he delegated too much to his first assistant and that he
was an absentee landlord, if you will, too hands-off.
What is your reaction to that criticism?
It had never reached my ears when I was deputy.
I have read in the paper that he was supposedly away to do
service in the Navy, because he was a reservist. I knew that
and knew the famous story about him being the model for Tom
Cruise, and used to tease him about not being as cute as Tom
But all I know is what I have read in the paper.
And if a U.S. attorney was away to serve his country as a
Navy reservist, it is not something that I as DAG would have
held against him, certainly.
Well, depending on the strength, I guess, of
his first assistant, would you consider delegation of some
management tasks to that first assistant, assuming that that
first assistant was competent, would that not be a strength, as
opposed to a weakness?
Certainly, so long as it is reasonable.
And I had a very effective first assistant when I was U.S.
attorney in Manhattan. He followed me as U.S. attorney, David
Kelley. And I used to give him all the hard stuff to do.
I am sure that many of the staffers around
here could relate to that. [Laughter.]
So would it be fair to conclude that Mr. Iglesias was
considered to be very engaged in his job as U.S. attorney?
I certainly thought so. It was my impression
from dealing with him when I was there.
Now, I want to read to you a brief excerpt
from the last year's evaluation report on Mr. Iglesias.
It states, ``The United States attorney was experienced in
legal, management and community relations work and was
respected by the judiciary, agencies and staff. The first
assistant United States attorney appropriately oversaw the day-
to-day work of the senior management team, effectively
addressed all management issues, and directed the resources to
accomplish the department's and the United States attorney's
Now, does that suggest to you that Mr. Iglesias improperly
or inappropriately delegated tasks?
No. That sounds like an A-grade review.
The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. Cannon is recognized for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We talked about a couple of U.S. attorneys with some
particularity, from your perspective. And I just want to point
out that that--your working with an understanding of them
happened at a relatively significantly earlier stage, and you
have, what, a year and a half or so where you were not
overseeing them, is that not the case?
And, first, I liked Bogden. I thought he was a very
competent guy. I don't know what was going on there.
But my experience with Mr. Iglesias was actually, sort of,
startling. We talked about--I think we had Mr. McKay and Ms.
Lam who had both reported contacts from Members of Congress to
the department. And when I asked Mr. Iglesias about his
reporting of contacts that he had claimed in the press, he
said, yes, he had reported those contacts to the department.
And I asked him when. And he said by talking to the press about
them, by telling the press. I was absolutely astounded at that
approach. He could have said ``no'' as easily.
And then he went on to talk about or try to make a
distinction between announcing indictments after he was asked
to resign and announcing that there was going to be action when
everybody knew that there was an investigation going on, and
making some hollow distinction that those were not indictments
that he was announcing.
I think that what I have just said is a fair
characterization of the record that he made here before us. Is
that consistent with the Mr. Iglesias that you knew and thought
was a qualified U.S. attorney?
I don't know what exactly he means by, as you
said, ``I disclosed it to the department by telling the media
I didn't know either, but, apparently, he had
not called his supervisor at the Department of Justice and
said, ``I have had a call or a contact and it consisted of the
following,'' which is, I think, what the department manual
That is what a U.S. attorney is supposed to do.
It sounds to me like he screwed up in that instance, and should
have made the call and reported the contact.
It doesn't necessarily change my view of him that he was a
competent U.S. attorney. And in my experience, like I said, he
was a very fired-up guy and a competent guy.
I don't mean to niggle here, but the fact that
he was a competent guy in your perspective, and that would not
be diminished by his failure to call, if he did what I
suggested to you, which is say that he actually had complied
with the requirement by telling the press, would that cause you
to question his judgment?
It just strikes me as curious.
Yes, it was odd.
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
I guess what I--I don't mean to put you on the
spot. You are here rethinking a lot of stuff, and I think you
have answered these questions very, very well that have been
put to you.
But the point is, people change. And there was a time lag
And as I think your testimony--and the record
should reflect that you are nodding at this point--is based
upon your knowledge at the time that you were here and not a
rethinking of the judgment made by people subsequent in the
That is absolutely the case, and I should make
that clear. I don't know what happened after August of 2005. I
wasn't consulted to get updates on how people were doing, so I
really can't speak to it.
And I don't intend my testimony to be a criticism of my
successor. I don't know what the encounters were between the
DAG who followed me and the U.S. attorneys. I have read some
stuff in the paper, but I don't have any personal knowledge of
Thank you. I really appreciate that.
And just before I yield back, let me point out that what is
happening I think so far in this questioning is a rethinking, a
grasping at straws, rather than looking at a process that
actually, over thousands and thousands of documents and now
over more than a half a dozen interviews, has shown itself to
be actually a fairly thoughtful, competent process.
And perhaps Mr. Watt's hopes will be achieved
here soon, and then we can get beyond this and let the
department do its work.
Thank you, Madam Chair----
Does the gentleman yield on that point?
Yes, I yield----
I just want to respond to something you said before we
lunch. There are still more questions outstanding. We would
like to do a third round of questioning.
But when you say there is a grasping at straws, this is an
investigation where we are trying to find out the circumstances
under which these U.S. attorneys were fired. Nobody at the DOJ
seems to know who created the list or who put the names on the
And that is the purpose of this hearing today, is to try to
elicit some of the information regarding the performance--
because performance was at one point given as the justification
for the firing of some of these U.S. attorneys.
Mr. Comey has----
Reclaiming my time, which is about to expire,
let me just point out that performance--we have been through
the issue of the use of the term ``performance.'' And Mr.
McNulty was very careful about saying that performance meant
meeting the criteria of the Administration.
And unfortunately that was taken--and there are a number of
communications to indicate that people took particular offense
at that idea of having their performance, their capability
questioned. It seems to me----
The time of the gentleman has expired.
I ask unanimous consent for an additional 30
If the gentlelady's argument is that we are
trying to find out where this list came from, Mr. Comey
actually may be relevant in a very narrow sense to that
question, because he was there early in the discussions.
I think what we have heard so far is that he wasn't really
involved in that, but that I think if we ask the gentleman we
would find that he believes there was a process that was a
significant process that generated a review. And that may be
helpful. I don't know that much else would be.
The time of the gentleman has expired. And I
will take the first few seconds of my third round of--oh, I am
terribly sorry. I apologize. It is Mr. Watt's turn to speak.
Mr. Watt is recognized for 5 minutes.
If the Chairlady would prefer me defer to her, I
am happy to do that. But I was about to go exactly where Mr.
Cannon has invited me to go----
Lead the way, Mr. Watt. Lead the way.
Which was to ask Mr. Comey whether,
during the time that you were the deputy, did it ever occur
that U.S. attorneys were terminated or asked to resign? And, if
so, without identifying the individuals involved, could you
describe what the process was that you followed?
I remember two occasions on which we asked U.S. attorneys
to resign. Both had engaged in what I considered serious
misconduct. And one was when John Ashcroft was attorney
general. The other was when Alberto Gonzales was the attorney
In each instance, my recollection is that I spoke to the
attorney general about the misconduct, laid it out. We
discussed it and how serious it was and got his approval to
have my senior staff member, David Margolis, who has been
mentioned, place a call to this individual and suggest that he
And in both cases, that is what we did. I talked to my
staff about it quite a bit, talked to the attorney general,
then had Mr. Margolis place a call and tell the U.S. attorney
that it was time to leave and explain why; that, given what had
been found and the conduct that had been discovered, that it
was not appropriate for them to remain in office.
And one U.S. attorney resigned in response to that call.
The other insisted on being fired by the president. And so we
had the president actually fire him by letter.
And in the course of that process, who would have
the contact with the U.S. attorney? Would it be you at the
deputy level? Would there be any discussions with the U.S.
attorney who was being considered for termination about the
It was, in both instances, Mr. Margolis, who was
associate deputy attorney general, and this was within his
portfolio. He handled--used to call him the Turk. He handled
discipline matters and problematic appointees and
investigations. And so, he spoke in each instance to the U.S.
attorney, explained why we were asking for the resignation,
went through it in some detail.
So if in fact in October of 2006--or, it was
reported that Senator Domenici, who, interestingly enough, had
recommended Mr. Iglesias for his job, then decided that Mr.
Iglesias was not ``up to the job,'' is what I understand he
said--would there have been a discussion in this process that
you had historically followed with Mr. Iglesias about that
before a termination occurred? Or would you just up and fire
Mr. Iglesias 1 day without that kind of discussion taking
I guess all I can speak to is what my experience
was. And that is, in both of the cases where I was involved
with doing that, terminating a U.S. attorney, there were
extensive discussions with the U.S. attorney so they understood
why we wanted them out.
And the two I was involved with were--I am not going to go
into it here--but were not close calls. I mean, these were, as
soon as you read about it, you said, ``This guy has got to
But we explained it, through Mr. Margolis, to both people
in the two cases I was involved with.
I will be happy to yield the balance of my time
to the Chair. And she is next anyway, I believe, so she can
just tack it on to her 5 minutes.
I appreciate your yielding time, Mr. Watt.
If a U.S. attorney was, in fact, fired for not following
Administration priorities on some subject, but neither the U.S.
attorney nor the first assistant or successor were told the
reasons for the firing, would you expect that the firing would
create a change in the priorities of that office, if neither
one were informed of the reasons for the firing?
If they didn't know about the concerns about the
Yes, if somebody was just summarily dismissed,
and there was no discussion that took place with the U.S.
attorney nor their first assistant, who presumably would be the
person in charge in the interim, if the reasons for their
dismissal were never discussed, would you expect that there
would be any change in priority in that office or ability to do
better in the areas that were deficient of the person who was
on the way out the door?
I suppose it would be hard for them to respond
if they didn't know what the message was that was being sent.
So I guess the answer is, if I were the U.S. attorney being let
go, I wouldn't know what priorities to pass along to my first
Just recently, the Seattle Times reported that
you had informal discussions with Attorneys General Ashcroft
and Gonzales about underperforming U.S. attorneys. Is that
No. I am going to offend my friends in the
press. It was a bit of a garble by that reporter.
I spoke to each of those attorneys general, their chiefs of
staff, briefly about it. Mr. Ayres asked me in 2004, said,
``Who do you think are the weakest U.S. attorneys?'' I answered
off the top of my head. And then Mr. Sampson in February of
2005 asked me basically the same question, almost in the same
words, and I answered again off the top of my head.
I never spoke to either Mr. Ashcroft or Mr. Gonzales about
So you spoke with their chiefs of staff. Did
you identify to those chiefs of staff any of the U.S. attorneys
who were fired in 2006 as underperforming, other than Mr. Ryan?
No, I don't believe so.
Now, we all know, because it has been stated
multiple times in many of the hearings that we have had, that
the U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and
can be dismissed by him as he sees fit. Is that correct?
That is my understanding, yes, ma'am.
Great. But in your view, would it be proper to
seek the removal of a U.S. attorney in order to retaliate or to
influence the bringing or the failure to bring cases to benefit
a particular political party? Would that be proper?
In my view, it would not be. It ought not to be
something that we do. And I don't have any reason to believe
that was done here. I don't know the facts. But I would be
concerned about that if that happened.
Right. We understand. Because you have stated,
I think, previously that you didn't have any information, one
way or the other, to whether or not that played a role in the
decision to terminate the six U.S. attorneys who testified
before the Subcommittee earlier this year.
Okay. But in your view and to the best of your
knowledge, were there valid, performance-based reasons to
terminate any of these six U.S. attorneys?
Not in my experience with them.
So during your time----
During my tenure, no.
Mr. Comey, returning to that 2005 list that we have been
discussing this morning, although it is not reflected on the
redacted version of the chart that you have in front of you, it
has been reported that Patrick Fitzgerald of Illinois was
listed on that chart in the middle category as someone who had
not distinguished himself positively or negatively.
What is your reaction to that rating?
I have never thought much of him. [Laughter.]
No, I am just kidding. He is a very close friend of mine--
I think he will be shocked to hear that.
He is a very close friend of mine. I think he is
one of the finest Federal prosecutors that there is and maybe
has ever been.
So you would disagree with the assessment on
that list that he hasn't distinguished himself either
positively or negatively?
Although I have enjoyed teasing him about it, it
would not be where I would put him on the list.
Okay, thank you.
It has also been reported that Steve Biskupic--I hope I
pronounced that correctly--of Wisconsin was on an early list of
U.S. attorneys for termination. Did you identify him to Mr.
Sampson as a weak performer?
No. I think very highly of him.
And in your view, what has been the message sent to and the
effect on the morale of other U.S. attorneys, assistant U.S.
attorneys, in the Department of Justice as a result of the
firing of the six U.S. attorneys who have testified before this
It is a big group, so it is hard to characterize
in one sweeping statement. But, as I said, this is a hard time
for folks at the department for a whole lot of reasons. And I
think it is a time of great uncertainty and pain for people who
love the Department of Justice.
My final question. I want to actually just read you a part
of an e-mail that has been provided to the Committee and that
was apparently sent to you by Bud Cummins on March 8th relating
to the firings.
According to the text that we have been provided, you
stated the following to Mr. Cummins: ``You are a good man and
have handled this maelstrom with great dignity. Watching it
causes me great pain for the USAs whom I respect and the
department which I love. Regardless, I will not sit by and
watch good people smeared. What is that quotation about, `All
that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain
[The e-mail follows:]
Did you, in fact, tell Mr. Cummins that?
Thank you, Mr. Comey.
I have no further questions.
Mr. Comey, I appreciate your humor there.
You have mentioned Mr. Margolis as a very competent person.
I am going to read some of the things that he
has said recently, and I will think you will get another
chuckle out of this as well.
I don't know if you are familiar with this at all, but Mr.
Barrera to Mr. Margolis: ``Do you have an understanding as to
what Mr. Comey's opinion of the performance of Mr. Iglesias was
as a U.S. attorney?
``Mr. Margolis: Only by reading a quote from him''--that is
from you--''in the newspaper. Mr. Barrera: Do you have an
opinion on whether or not Mr. Comey as deputy attorney
general--'' Mr. Margolis interrupts and says, ``I sense a
softball coming. Just throw it out there.'' [Laughter.]
``Mr. Barrera: Do you have an opinion on Mr. Comey's
evaluation of Mr. Iglesias as U.S. attorney? Mr. Margolis: Jim
is very fair''--referring to you, Mr. Comey--``very decent. I
have to admit he is softer than I am on personnel judgments,
but he certainly had a better basis to judge this guy than I
``Mr. Barrera: Did you ever have any conversations with
anyone in which you recall, prior to December 6, 2006, that Mr.
Iglesias had any performance or conduct issues? Mr. Margolis: I
don't believe so, no.''
``Mr. Barrera: Did you at any time prior to December 7,
2006, understand that any elected officials, including Senator
Domenici or Heather Wilson, had expressed concerns of any sort
about Mr. Iglesias?''
``Mr. Margolis: No, I learned that subsequently. I would be
remiss if I didn't point out that I am furious at Mr. Iglesias
for not reporting this. And I don't think I would be sitting
here answering questions if he had reported that. Because the
way we react at the department when something like that comes
up is we run the other way to make sure nobody thinks we are
fixing the case. So that is unforgivable. And his explanation
was unforgivable. His explanation was, `Oh, this guy was my
mentor.' That is what we hold out as an independent U.S.
attorney to the public. To say, `Oh, well, I am not going to
follow the rules if I like this guy,' or something like that, I
am furious about that. Now that doesn't mean I am not furious
at the other party to the conversation, either. But I don't
expect as much of him. And I will just say that I know the
other two parties very well, and I don't believe that they
would ever have done a phone call the way Mr. Iglesias
So I think Mr. Margolis represents himself remarkably well
as an advocate for the Department of Justice. I believe that
you are laughing and I am laughing because here is a guy who
actually loves an institution, doesn't like to see it hurt as
it is being hurt, is angry about the improper actions of at
least one individual there.
I don't really expect a comment from you on this, although
I think that it was worth a chuckle. And I think it helps put
in perspective where we are going on this.
And, in the end, what we are talking about is the major
justice system in America; not the judiciary, which is
important and independent, but the major process whereby we
identify crime and prosecute significant crime in America.
That is the important thing, and that is what justified, I
think, the humor but also the anger. I used the term
``furious'' twice because it goes to the core of what we are
doing as a society here. This is an issue I hope we can resolve
And with that, Madam Chair, I yield back the time with the
great hope that we can get to the core issues and all of us
yield back our time and move on.
I appreciate the gentleman yielding back the
balance of his time.
Before we adjourn, because we have just been called to
vote, I know Mr. Johnson has a series of questions very quickly
he would like to run through.
But before that, I am going to ask unanimous consent to
enter into the record the e-mail from Kyle Sampson to Harriet
Miers that we discussed in questioning this morning, the list
in question of the U.S. attorneys who were evaluated, and also
the e-mails from Mr. Comey to Mr. Cummins and the e-mail from
Mr. Comey to Mr.
And without objection, so ordered.
[The e-mail follows:]
I will now recognize Mr. Johnson for final
questions that he may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Comey, the Department of Justice has recently confirmed
that the Office of Inspector General and the Office of
Professional Responsibility are investigating whether partisan
political tests were applied to the hiring of assistant United
State attorneys in offices that were headed by interim or
acting United States attorneys.
If, in fact, there was partisan political tests that were
applied in the hiring of those U.S. attorneys, what impact do
you believe that would have on career professionals in the
department, on the fair and impartial administration of our
Federal criminal justice system? And what impact would it have
on the public's confidence in Federal criminal prosecutions,
particularly in the area of political corruption?
That is, in my view, the most serious thing that
I have heard come up in this entire controversy. If that was
going on, that strikes at the core of what the Department of
Justice is. You just cannot do that.
You can't hire assistant U.S. attorneys based on political
affiliation, again, because it deprives the department of its
lifeblood, which is the ability to stand up and have juries of
all stripes believe what you say, and have sheriffs and judges
and jailers and the people we deal with trust the Department of
It just--that concerns me a great deal. I hope that didn't
happen. I hope the investigation turns out that it didn't
happen. But that is a very serious thing.
U.S. attorneys are political appointees, as the Chairman
said. They can be terminated for any reason. And I understood
that I was a political appointee. But these AUSAs, they are the
ones on whom the whole system rests. And we just cannot have
that kind of political test.
Well, let me ask you, if it is established
that assistant United States attorneys over the last few years
have been hired on a partisan political basis, what remedies do
you think should be implemented to eliminate or minimize the
adverse impact of those improperly based hirings?
I don't have a suggestion at this point. I
don't. It is very troubling. I don't know how you would put
that genie back in the bottle, if people started to believe we
were hiring our AUSAs for political reasons. I don't know that
there is any window you can go to get the department's
reputation back if that kind of stuff is going on.
Has any U.S. attorney expressed concerns to
you about this problem since you left the department or even
before you left the department?
A couple have said to me--when I said I had
heard about it, rumors, a couple of them had said they had
heard second-and third-hand that this was going on, and shared
my concern. But I don't have--and no one I spoke to had first-
hand knowledge of it.
Would you care to identify those who you had
those discussions with?
I would love not to, because they were private
conversations. I am not going to refuse the Committee's request
if it becomes important, but these are people who were talking
to me about their concerns about the department.
All right. Well, I am sure that that can be
handled in a more sensitive way.
But I have one last question: What kind of leadership and
actions will have to take place at the department to ensure
that future prosecutions are not tainted by improperly based
I don't know the answer to that. A whole lot of
time and a whole lot of good work will be necessary to heal
that kind of wound. We have already seen some of it.
I have said nice things about Steve Biskupic, the U.S.
attorney in Milwaukee, who is an absolutely straight guy, but
because of this controversy, people have questioned whether he
prosecuted people who were Democrats for partisan reasons. And
without even knowing the cases, I would absolutely know that
wasn't the case. But people started to doubt it, because of
So I don't know what, other than time and people just in
individual encounters doing it well and doing it well over and
over again, will heal a wound like that. I hope there is not a
wound like that. But if there is, it will be hard to fix.
Does the gentleman yield back?
Yes, I yield back.
I would like to recognize Mr. Cannon, very
briefly, because we have just under 10 minutes to get across
for our vote.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would just like to thank you for coming, Mr. Comey. I
think you have put perfect balance on the importance of the
Department of Justice, the effect of this inquiry on the morale
of the Department of Justice, and the need to understand the
issues--which, by the way, the gentleman has laid out very
well. I appreciate those comments. That is where we ought to be
going and deciding if those issues have been violated.
And point out that, well, I don't think we have made any
progress at all on identifying the White House's role in all
this. I appreciate the directness and candor of your testimony,
but it did not lead to where I think the majority was going on
And what we have here is a consensus process of dealing
with political appointees that happened over a significant
period of time at a very senior level at the Department of
Justice, and perhaps at the White House. And I suspect that, in
the end, if there is a fair reporting of that, that is what the
meaning of this hearing was.
I would also hope that the press would pick up on not only
your loyalty to the Department of Justice and your view of that
as a very important institution in America, but also on the
importance of what the department does and why it is important
that we get beyond this inquiry.
If there is wrongdoing, let's find it, let's find it
quickly, and let's identify it. And the minority has been very
supportive in the process of doing that.
But if that is not the case, let's let people understand
that we have great prosecutors in America who are not bent, who
are not going to give Republicans or Democrats who are corrupt
a break, and who will go forward and assure that our public
institutions are institutions of integrity.
I want to thank you for coming, Mr. Comey. I appreciate it
And yield back, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Comey. I want to thank you for
your testimony today. I think it has been very educational,
understanding your evaluation of the U.S. attorneys and how
that conflicts with the evidence on the list of those who were
to be dismissed or to be retained.
And I want to thank you for your service to this country at
the Department of Justice. It is clear to me that you have
earned the very stellar reputation that you have as being fair
and just, and speaking up when you see things that need to be
We are going to head across the street for votes.
But, without objection, Members will have 5 legislative
days to submit any additional written questions, which we will
forward to the witness and ask that you answer as promptly as
you can to be made a part of the record.
Without objection, the record will remain open for 5
legislative days for the submission of any additional
Again, I want to thank everyone for participating, for
their time and their patience.
And this hearing of the Subcommittee on Commercial and
Administrative Law is adjourned.