WASHINGTON (AP) — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner called for Jamie Gorelick to resign from the Sept. 11 commission Wednesday, citing a memo she wrote as a deputy attorney general on separating counterintelligence from criminal investigations.
Gorelick, a Democrat, said she would not resign and indicated the Wisconsin lawmaker may be looking for a way to silence her.
“When you ask hard questions of people who are in office, they take offense,” she said.
The chairman of the bipartisan commission, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, backed her up, telling reporters, “People ought to stay out of our business.”
Gorelick is a Democrat, while Sensenbrenner – like Kean – is a Republican.
Gorelick’s tenure has become an issue in the wake of a recently declassified memo that she wrote in 1995 while serving in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. It contained instructions for officials to keep counterintelligence “more clearly separate” from criminal intelligence.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, appearing before the panel on Tuesday, released the memo and said that a “wall” between counterintelligence and criminal investigations was a key impediment to terrorism probes before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Scrutiny of this policy lies at the heart of the commission’s work,” Sensenbrenner said. “Ms. Gorelick has an inherent conflict of interest as the author of this memo and as a government official at the center of the events in question.
“Thus, I believe the commission’s work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a commissioner.”
Appearing on CNN, Gorelick said: “All of the commission members have some government experience. Everyone is subject to the same recusal policies. You could have had a commission with nobody who knew anything about government. And I don’t think it would have been a very helpful commission.”
Kean, asked about the issue at a news conference, dismissed the request and said Gorelick was one of the hardest-working and nonpartisan members of the commission. He also said she had recused herself from involvement in issues on which she worked while serving in government.
Sensenbrenner, in an interview broadcast on Fox News Wednesday night, said the issue was larger than that.
“She ought to be called on as a witness because that memo went beyond what the law required,” he said. “There’s no way the commission or Gorelick can have an objective conclusion as a result of her investigating her own memorandum.”
The Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm, also has called on Gorelick to step down, citing the memo.