(Host) Congress returns to Washington today following its month long August recess.
One of the major issues facing the Senate will be the confirmation of a new Attorney General.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, says he doesn’t want hold any confirmation hearings right now.
He wants to wait until out going Attorney General Alberto Gonzales responds to the committee’s request for information.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) For several months, Leahy has been trying to learn what role Gonzales played in several key cases including: the creation of a federal domestic wiretapping program, the firing of 9 U.S. Attorneys last fall, and charges of torture at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.
Gonzales has testified several times in front of the Judiciary Committee but on a number of occasions he couldn’t recall the information Leahy was seeking.
Last week, the Inspector General at the Department of Justice announced he was investigating if Gonzales misled Congress about these issues.
Although Gonzales will formally resign as Attorney General in about two weeks, Leahy says he wants the White House to respond to a request for more information in these cases and Leahy wants the information before he holds any confirmation hearings for a new Attorney General:
(Leahy) "We still have a lot of information we have to have from the White House before we can even have a hearing. It’s certainly going to be information on the issue of what Attorney General Gonzales based his legal reasoning on in both the torture memo and the spying warrant-less spying on Americans."
(Kinzel) Leahy says it will be difficult to hold these hearings unless the White House complies with his request:
(Leahy) "I certainly have to have more of the information than we have now. I think everybody would want more information just so you’d know what questions to ask in a confirmation hearing."
(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s offered to meet with the President to discuss potential candidates in an effort to avoid a confrontational hearing process:
(Leahy) "The Department of Justice has been badly badly injured by this Administration in trying to play partisan politics with it. There are a lot of people who would have almost unanimous support of both Republican’s and Democrats. Put one of them in and try to restore the credibility of the Department of Justice."
(Kinzel) The President is expected to announce his selection for a new Attorney General when he returns from a trip to the Far East in about a week.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.