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Transcript: Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 19, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the March 18, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: We asked Attorney General Gonzales to come on today, but the White House declined our invitation.
Chances are his fate rests largely in the hands of key Republicans in the U.S. Senate and, perhaps most of all, our next guest, Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who joins us from Philadelphia.
Senator, Attorney General Gonzales came out in a press conference this week and said that he believes in accountability, but then he minimized his role in this whole episode. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES: Like every CEO of a major organization, I am responsible for what happens at the Department of Justice, was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, do you still have confidence in Attorney General Gonzales?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: I'm reserving judgment on that, Chris, until we finish the inquiry. This is one of two very important matters we're looking into. The other one is the misuse of national security letters for the FBI.
There are many conflicting assertions here, Chris. The Department of Justice continues to say that the resignations were requested because people weren't performing properly.
And I want to find out the facts, and there's a good bit of investigation that has to be done before we can really evaluate what the attorney general has done here.
WALLACE: On the other issue facing the White House now, should they allow Karl Rove and other top officials to testify? And if they don't, will you vote to subpoena them?
SPECTER: I believe that Mr. Rove and others ought to be before the committee. There are many precedents for having people in similar situations testify.
Will I go along with a subpoena? I want to see exactly what the White House response is. Maybe the White House will come back and say, "We'll permit them to be interviewed and we'll give them all the records."
But I don't like to make judgments before it really crystallizes and comes into focus.
WALLACE: Do you have any sense -- are you, in fact, talking with White House Counsel Fred Fielding? Do you have any sense when they're going to make that decision?
SPECTER: Sure did, had a long talk with him Friday morning. And I think we'll know their position on Monday.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the firing of Mr. Iglesias that we just discussed with him on this program.
When you hear that Senator Domenici and Congresswoman Wilson called him before the election, he alleges to ask him about a politically charged investigation; when they confirmed the fact, if not the substance, of those conversations; when you see this e-mail traffic which shows the chief of staff to the attorney general saying that Domenici's chief of staff was 'happy as a clam,' does this trouble you?
SPECTER: Well, I think the issue really is whether Mr. Iglesias was performing properly. The New York Times has a very extensive story today outlining both sides of the matter — lots of complaints about what he was doing and lots of complaints about what he was not doing.
Now, if a United States attorney is not doing his job, he ought to be replaced. And it wouldn't be unusual for the chief of staff of the senator who makes the recommendations to be happy as a clam if they're going to get somebody in who's well qualified.
Look, Chris, it all turns on the facts. Was he doing the job or wasn't he doing the job? We know that the president has the authority to fire without any reason.
President Clinton fired 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office, and nobody said a word. But there's a real question here if he fires for a bad reason, if he fires because a U.S. attorney would not respond to pressure to prosecute or if there was pressure on him to not prosecute.
We're taking a look now, Chris, at whether Congress ought to legislate to require some showing of cause. The special counsel can only be terminated by the attorney general, for example, with cause.
So Congress has the constitutional authority to set some parameters and guidelines.
We don't want to interfere with the president's basic right to set policy. If he wants immigration cases emphasized, his U.S. attorneys ought to do that. If he wants — whatever class of cases he wants ought to be followed.
But we're learning from this experience, and we really ought not to rush to judgment to either approve what Mr. Iglesias does or condemn it until we know a lot more facts.
And if we find that there's a way to better regulate this kind of a situation, Congress ought to act.
WALLACE: Senator, do you think that the administration used its emergency powers under the Patriot Act to get around sending at least some of the replacements for these U.S. attorneys to the Senate for confirmation? And if so, was that appropriate?
SPECTER: I don't think they did. The provision in the Patriot Act which expanded the attorney general's power was not noticed by anybody, and it was in the conference report for some three months.
It was only when it was put into effect and we saw its harmful application that we saw it was a bad change in law, and Senator Feinstein took the lead, and I have co-sponsored her legislation to change that back.
WALLACE: This week, you said that New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer -- that his role leading the investigation into the U.S. attorneys at the same time that he's running the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee --is a conflict of interest. Has he crossed a line here?
SPECTER: I think he has. And I confronted Senator Schumer on it eyeball-to-eyeball on Thursday in the Judiciary Committee meeting.
But let's look at what the facts are: Senator Schumer is leading the inquiry, and the day after we have testimony about Senator Domenici, he puts his name up on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, criticizing --or really making the argument-- that he ought not to be re-elected.
Now, I think that the inquiry by the Judiciary Committee ought to have at least a modicum of objectivity, and if Mr. Schumer is doing a job to defeat Senator Domenici, which he is now — that's his job as chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee — that he puts it up on their Web site the very next day, and then he has made very conclusory and judgmental statements all along.
And I challenged him on that a week ago in the Judiciary Committee, and he calls it a purge, and he's taken a very political stance. Now, he's got a right to do that. He's a politician and I'm a politician.
But I don't think he can do both things at the same time without having a conflict of interest, but that's up for him to decide.
WALLACE: Senator, we only have about 30 seconds left. Are you calling on Senator Schumer to step down -- if he's going to continue this political effort, are you calling on him to step down in terms of leading the investigation?
SPECTER: Nope, I'm calling on him to use his own judgment on that. If I call him to step down, somebody's going to say Arlen Specter is trying to stifle this investigation, and I'm not.
I've been totally cooperative, as all of my Republican colleagues have been, with this investigation. But when he has a conflict of interest, I'm not going to be afraid to say so.
WALLACE: Senator Specter, you seldom are afraid to say so. Thank you. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it as always.
SPECTER: Nice being with you, thanks.
This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.