The daunting ailment that has plagued those in the service of the White House continued to take its toll on the President's minions. Today, members of a congressional investigative committee continued their efforts to find the source of the ailment as it seems to be highly contagious. The most recent strains seem to be far more pervasive yet determining its origin continues to remain elusive. Senator Chuck Schumer closed his questioning by offering the hypothesis that the ailment was a virulent form of blatant lying. The New York Times offered the following report:
WASHINGTON, March 29 — The former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified today that contrary to Mr. Gonzales’s earlier assertions, the attorney general was involved in discussions to fire United States attorneys.
“I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate," the former Gonzales aide, D. Kyle Sampson, said under questioning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“I don’t think it’s accurate," Mr. Sampson repeated under questioning by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the panel’s ranking Republican. “I think he’s recently clarified it. But I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign, and I believe that he was present at the meeting on Nov. 27."
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, pursued a line of questioning similar to Mr. Specter’s, and with similar results. Mr. Schumer recalled Mr. Gonzales’s statement of March 13 that he “never saw documents" related to the impending dismissals and “we never had a discussion about where things stood."
“Was that statement accurate?" Mr. Schumer asked.
“I don’t think it’s entirely accurate, what he said," Mr. Sampson replied. He went on to say that he did not know if the attorney general had seen dismissal-related documents, but that he was sure Mr. Gonzales was involved in discussions about the firings early on.
As for the Nov. 27 meeting, Mr. Sampson said he did not recall it clearly.
“But," Mr. Schumer persisted, “your recollection is, he did speak at the meeting?"
“Yes," Mr. Sampson said.
“O.K.," Mr. Schumer said. “Now that in itself says a whole lot."
Many within the media stepped in to immediately offer the public a layman's interpretation of the symptoms as well as analysis of the ongoing implications if a cure for the ailment could not be administered soon. The White House continued to downplay the seriousness of the ailment as it sought to allay the growing fears within the American public that the disease might soon decimate the bulk of their elected officials. A growing number of pundits continued to suggest that the President is in denial as to the severity of the ailment and what it might do to the Republican Party.
Democrats and a few Republicans have said the handling of the dismissals suggested that the Bush administration may have intended, for partisan purposes, to slow or jump-start certain cases under the purview of some of the eight United States attorneys.
That sort of interference, Mr. Sampson testified, would indeed fall into the category of “improper reasons" for removal. He then added that “to my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here."
“I believe the department’s response was badly mishandled," he said. “It was mishandled through an unfortunate combination of poor judgments, poor word choices, and poor communication and preparation for the department’s testimony before Congress."
Justice Department officials had acknowledged on Wednesday that they provided incorrect information to Congress in a letter drafted by Mr. Sampson and approved by the White House counsel. The letter, dated Feb. 23, said that "the department is not aware" of the president’s adviser Karl Rove "playing any role" in the decision to appoint his former deputy, J. Timothy Griffin, as interim United States attorney in Arkansas, Mr. Cummins’s former position.
The letter was written weeks after Mr. Sampson wrote in other messages that Mr. Griffin’s appointment was "important to Harriet, Karl, etc.," referring to Mr. Rove and Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel at the time.
Thought Theater will continue to follow the latest developments. In the meantime, NBC hopes that this weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live will bring some much needed levity to the growing epidemic. The network released the following print preview of what viewers might expect.