CNN Sr. Legal Correspondent: [Gonzales] Attorney Generalship ‘Really Preposterous’
Jeff Toobin, CNN’s senior legal analyst, made two statements on the resignation of attorney general Alberto Gonzales on Monday’s "American Morning" that point to his own political leanings. Co-host John Roberts, following-up on Toobin’s remark that he found himself "surprised" by this announcement, asked "Really? But surprised, but are you shocked? Toobin’s answer: "Well, not shocked. I mean, you know, this was a really preposterous attorney generalship at this point." Toobin also invoked the memory of John Mitchell, the attorney general under Nixon who was jailed due to Watergate, in his answer.
Later, when Roberts asked about the possibility of Michael Chertoff replacing Gonzales, Toobin mentioned some of Chertoff’s qualifications, including how he was law clerk to former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, "the biggest liberal, probably, in the history in the court." Immediately after mentioning this detail, Toobin added, "So, he certainly has the resume you'd want." Toobin also offered some "balance" to this by mentioning that Chertoff was the Homeland Security Secretary during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The news of Gonzales’ resignation first broke during the 8 am hour of the "American Morning" broadcast. CNN regular Heidi Collins, who was filling-in for co-host Kiran Chetry, joined Roberts in the Toobin segment.
A full transcript of the segment, which came at the bottom of the 8 am hour of Monday’s American Morning:
JOHN ROBERTS: "Jeff Toobin, by the way, our senior legal analyst, who's down in Richmond, Virginia to cover the Michael Vick hearing today, joins us. Jeff, you and I had numerous conversations about this over the last few months. You always thought that he couldn't survive. Your thoughts this morning?"
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: "Well, you know, it's funny. I find myself surprised, even though he was widely reviled without supporters, as you say, except for the president, but the president seems completely steadfast, and there did not appear to be support for impeachment on Capitol Hill. So, my understanding, my thought was that he was simply going to ride it out. I guess it simply became untenable, and he recognized that without support, except from President Bush, he couldn't survive. But I guess now that it's happened, I do -- I feel surprised."
ROBERTS: "Really? But surprised, but are you shocked?"
TOOBIN: "Well, not shocked. I mean, you know, this was a really preposterous attorney generalship at this point. You really have to go back to John Mitchell, who was the attorney general under Richard Nixon, who wound up going to prison in the Watergate scandal, to find an attorney general who was as universally despised, or felt contempt for, than Alberto Gonzales. The real turning point was that hearing in April, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he had absolutely no clue why the eight U.S. attorneys were fired, why -- where all of the Republicans on the committee refused to come to his defense. That was the moment where he became a political pariah, and he's just been playing out the strings since then."
ROBERTS: "So, what about a replacement? What about this idea of Michael Chertoff? And what about the confirmation battle that could erupt in the Senate Judiciary Committee?"
TOOBIN: "Well, you know, I have to confess a certain bias about Michael Chertoff. In the summer of 1986, right after I graduated from law school, I was Michael Chertoff's intern in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And you know, I've known Mike for a very long time. He was a wonderful prosecutor. He did, perhaps, the most important Mafia case in the history of organized crime prosecutions, the Commission case in Manhattan. He then went on to be the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Court of Appeals judge in the early part of the Bush term, then head of the criminal division. He certainly has the resume for the job. He was a law clerk to Justice William Brennan, the biggest liberal, probably, in the history of the court. So, he certainly has the resume you'd want. However, he, too, has become a figure of political controversy."
TOOBIN: "Remember, Michael Chertoff was the head of Homeland Security during Katrina. He was Michael Brown's boss. So, he is going to be not..."
COLLINS: "Then you have to..."
TOOBIN: "I'm sorry. Go ahead."
COLLINS: "Go ahead. It just brings to mind the question of when you're getting on this point of some of his past history there, whether or not the Department of Justice, the people who work there, who go there every day, will be able to jump on board, and begin following this individual."
TOOBIN: "Well, I mean, you know, I think the people in the Justice Department are very anxious to be outside the realm of political controversy. They don't want to be at the center of this sort of -- and I think any new leader will certainly be given the benefit of the doubt, and someone of Chertoff's evident qualifications, despite his political controversies of the recent years, I think he probably would rally a lot of support there."
ROBERTS: "All right, Jeff Toobin for us outside of the courthouse in Richmond, Virginia."