Atty. Gen. Gonzales Responds to Frank Rich's '12-Hour Gap' Charge By E&P Staff Published: July 24, 2005 11:20 AM ET NEW YORK Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, responding to a strong charge in a column by Frank Rich in The New York Times today, said there was nothing improper about waiting 12 hours to preserve all materials after being informed by the Justice Department in 2003 that it was launching an investigation into the disclosure of Valerie Plames status as a CIA agent. Gonzales told Bob Schieffer on the CBS show Face the Nation that he had been given permission by the Justice Department to hold off overnight if he saw fit, which he did. But he did tell one man that night: Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The White House did not immediately respond to questions Sunday about whether Card passed that information to top Bush aide Karl Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation, the Associated Press reported after Gonzales' revelation. Appearing on the same CBS show immediately following Gonzales, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Dela.) said: "The real question now is, 'Who did the chief of staff speak to?'" Schiefer agreed that this "seemed to perhaps open a whole new can of worms." Gonzales told Schieffer that, as the White House counsel, he never launched his own probe into the matter because in this kind of case you want to wait to see if there is a criminal investigation. He said he feared his own queries into the Plame leak would hinder a criminal investigation. Rich had written in the Times that Gonzales was likely denied the Supreme Court nod that just went to John G. Roberts because the White House feared that he had too much proximity to the Plame scandal. As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife, Rich wrote. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must preserve all materials relevant to the investigation. "This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence, said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. Asked about this by Schieffer today, Gonzales said, It has always been my practice to work closely with investigators. After getting notification from the Justice Department about 8 p.m. that night, he asked if he could inform staffers at the White House early in the morning , and that was okayed. Schieffer then asked if he at least informed anyone at the White House that first night to get ready for the order. Yes, Gonzales said, he told the presidents chief of staff that night, and then the president himself first thing the next day. He then explained that he hadn't launched an internal probe just in case a criminal investigation was in the works. Any regrets about how he handled all this? Schieffer wondered. No, Gonzales replied, pointing how that the strong prosecutor in the case will bring out all the facts.