The Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.), emerged from a crucial Monday briefing and gave the Bush administration 18 hours to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's congressional testimony.
Gonzales took issue last week with former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's description of internal dissent in 2004 over the legal authority for the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program. Frustrated Democrats called for a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales for perjury, noting that several officials have publicly echoed Comey's account. Those calls prompted Specter to request a classified briefing to clear up the dispute.
Specter aides released a statement late Monday that suggested a bombshell to come on Tuesday afternoon.
"Given the difficulty of discussing classified matters in public, I think it is preferable to have a letter addressing that question [of Gonzales' veracity] from the administration ... by noon tomorrow, which will be made available to the news media," Specter wrote in the statement. "The administration has committed to producing such a letter."
Specter expects the letter clarifying the attorney general's testimony to be addressed to himself and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who declined to comment on the matter.
Specter was equally cagey, telling reporters to wait until Tuesday for any further comment from him.