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Congress sent thousands of pages on U.S. attorneys

Story Highlights

• Justice Department delivers 3,000 pages of e-mails, other documents
• House and Senate committees are investigating the terminations
• White House officials insist the firings were not politically motivated
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Department of Justice Monday delivered to Congress more than 3,000 pages of e-mails and other documentation regarding the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

One set of the documents went to the House Judiciary Committee and another to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Both committees are holding hearings on the firings, which led several Democrats and Republicans to call for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. ( Watch Sen. Arlen Specter criticize Gonzales Video)

The committees were to release the documents to the public, but it was unclear how long that process would take.

The Democrat-led committees requested the documents to try to bring more clarity to the process used by the department in deciding which of the federal prosecutors to fire and why. At the core of the issue is whether, as some Democrats allege, the department fired the attorneys for political reasons.

"Taking a virtually unprecedented step, the Justice Department released 3,000 pages of documents today on the dismissal of the eight U.S. attorneys and has offered to make department officials available voluntarily for 'on the record' interviews and hearings," Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said in a statement.

"The department did not remove the U.S. attorneys for improper reasons, such as to prevent or retaliate for a particular prosecution in a public corruption matter. Because the American public must have confidence that such considerations did not factor into the decisions here, the Justice Department is being transparent and forthcoming with the Congress."

Democrats in Congress have alleged that the Justice Department did just that, and the responses from the department have done little to calm the storm. The controversy has already cost Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, his job.

In the midst of investigating the eight firings, e-mails surfaced indicating that, early in President Bush's second term, some in the administration had backed firing all 93 of the U.S. attorneys.

The White House said the idea for such a move -- which the president has the right to do -- came from Harriet Miers, who wanted "new blood" in those offices. Miers became White House counsel after Gonzales moved to the attorney general's office.

E-mails surfaced Thursday indicating that Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and then-White House Counsel Gonzales had been involved in discussions about the matter before Gonzales became attorney general.

Gonzales' office issued a statement saying he "has no recollection of any plan or discussion to replace U.S. attorneys while he was still White House counsel."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday the White House cannot stand by its assertions that Miers was the first to suggest firing all federal prosecutors.

"At this juncture, people have hazy memories," he said. "The thing we can say with assurance is Karl [Rove] recalling she raised it."


U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been criticized for his handling of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.



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