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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" Interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Interviewer: Chris Matthews


Location: Unknown


MR. MATTHEWS: Let's bring in Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

You don't have confirmation rights, but do you think there's a standard that the Democrats will insist upon in a new attorney general, Congresswoman?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Absolutely. And good afternoon, Chris. The standard that we're going to use is that we want to hold the president to making a hiring decision for the next attorney general that is a lawyer for the people and not for the president.

And clearly the next move that he makes should not be bringing in another Bush loyalist. An example that I would use is the name of Secretary Chertoff has been thrown around today, which is particularly egregious on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This is not a person who did a stellar job in the aftermath of that tragedy, and having him step in and add insult to injury would not be the best move that the president could make.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the standards. Let me ask you about what do you think was the biggest problem? I'm opening the door here, I suppose, but I'm hoping I'm doing it fairly. Can you claim right now that Alberto Gonzales broke any law of the United States as attorney general? Can you claim that right now?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I'll tell you what the biggest problem is. The biggest problem is that, in terms of the way he ran the Justice Department, we went from, as the senator said, Attorney General Ashcroft, who arguably did apply the rule of law, to essentially having a lady justice who is supposed to be blind, holding balanced scales, to holding scales that tipped far too much to the right.

And we need to make sure that there is a new attorney general that rebalances those scales and keeps justice blind. And that was, I think, to me, the most offensive thing is the way that this attorney general conducted business at the Justice Department. He politicized it. He let the White House basically run the legal and law enforcement divisions and the civil rights division from the White House. And we do need someone that has a spine, that can stand up to the politics that I believe we all need to recognize is going to continue to come out of the White House. I don't have any confidence --

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, now that Rumsfeld is gone --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I don't have any confidence, in the next year and a half, that --

MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a final question.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- the White House is going to change their stripes.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you to reaffirm that in a different way, if you will. Rove is gone; Karl Rove has resigned. Rumsfeld has been fired. According to Chuck Schumer, Senator Schumer, now Gonzales has been fired. Is there going to be a truce now, a period of cease-fire between the White House and the Democrats in the Senate and the House?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Sure, there will be, as long as the president takes the steps that he needs to take to put a neutral face on lady justice and make sure that we return the Justice Department to the people and take the politicization out of it. And in particular, we need to make sure that there's a clear understanding that the departure of the attorney general doesn't mean that we are not going to need to get to the bottom of holding the White House accountable for the littered road of scandal that this attorney general has left.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, thank you very much, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.



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