'Factor' Exclusive: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST HOST: In the "personal story" segment tonight, a "Factor" exclusive. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned in 2007 an after a controversial tenure at the Justice Department. But now some on the left want the incoming Obama team to go after the former Bush administration official, including Mr. Gonzales and pursue criminal cases against the whole lot.

Today, The New York Times says: "[A bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee] shows how actions by these men 'led directly' to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret CIA prisons."

So is Mr. Gonzales worried about becoming a target once Obama is in office? Joining us now from Washington for his first interview since leaving office, Alberto Gonzales. Mr. Attorney General, thank you for coming in.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Juan, it's good to be here. Good to see you.

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WILLIAMS: Now do these kind of loud appeals coming from the left for the Obama administration to go after you, to look at criminal proceedings, does that worry you?

GONZALES: It doesn't worry me, Juan. Obviously, in every administration, every president is criticized. Cabinet heads are criticized. I think if you're not criticized by someone, you're probably not doing your job.

And so what I know is that we did everything we could lawfully to protect our country. And I also know that for a period of almost two years, there have been ongoing investigations about some of my conduct. And today there has been no finding of criminal wrongdoing.

WILLIAMS: Now Ruben Navarrette, the columnist out in San Diego he says, you know what? Liberals don't like you, conservatives don't like you. He says civil libertarians are going after you for treatment of detainees as well as for wiretaps. And then last week, you had the Senate Armed Services report that said that based on their studies, the Obama administration should look at future criminal proceedings. Now, let's stop and think about this for a second. Do you think that you did anything wrong in terms of paving the way for detainees to be tortured?

GONZALES: Absolutely not, Juan. In fact, that's been looked at by various committees on the Hill. There have been examinations of that with respect to the various IG's of the CIA and the Department of Justice in terms of what the administration did.

And I think what we see is putting everything into context, the country just experiencing attacks of 9/11. And policymakers making decisions about what we need to do to protect our country, to make our country safe. And then turning to the lawyers to make sure that those actions are, in fact, lawful. And so the lawyers stepped up and gave their very best advice, acting in good faith based upon their best interpretation of the law to work with the policymakers in forming the policy that has made our country safe from an attack since 9/11.

WILLIAMS: So you don't feel that you were be being pressured by politicians in the White House to give permission for illegal acts to take place?

GONZALES: I never felt any kind of pressure, Juan. Policymakers decide what is the best policy to protect America. They then turn to the lawyers and ask us whether or not are these policies lawful? And we give our best advice, looking at the law. I mean, these are very, very tough issues. Very controversial issues. I'm not saying that there wasn't some serious conditions and disagreement amongst lawyers. That's what lawyers do. I think we want to welcome that kind of debate on these very tough issues. But, at the end of the day, we exercise our best legal judgment to provided advice to policymakers that has resulted in keeping America safe from another attack since 9/11.

WILLIAMS: Now, Mr. Attorney General, in September, the current Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor to look at whether or not there were possible criminal charges, again criminal charges that could put you in jail in regard to the firing of those nine U.S. attorneys.

Again, you're on the spot. You know, some people say there's a lynch mob after you. We have talked just a moment ago about detainees. Now we are back to the nine U.S. attorneys. Again, do you have any sense that you did something wrong with regard to the firing of those nine U.S. attorneys?

GONZALES: Absolutely not, Juan. And, if you look carefully at the report issued by the Inspector General at the Department of Justice that took over a year to complete, hundreds of pages. And there's no finding at all of any kind of a criminal wrongdoing on my part.

And so what I've done is as attorney general, as we became aware of problems within the department, we took corrective actions. And I think the American people should feel comforted by the fact that the report, while it may have found wrongdoing by staffers at the department, found no evidence whatsoever of politicization of the work of prosecutions by the Department of Justice.

WILLIAMS: But Mr. Attorney General, it's suggests that you were not attentive, that somehow you were negligent and allowed political decisions to be made in firing these U.S. attorneys, pressure coming possibly from the White House.

GONZALES: I'm not aware of any such pressure, Juan. What I will say is and I've already disclosed this to the American people in speaking to them through testimony on the Hill, that looking back, there — I would have done some things a little bit differently. But at the end of the day, what's very important is the IG concluded there was no wrongdoing by me.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Attorney General, thank you very much.

GONZALES: Thank you, Juan.

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