WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ much-anticipated appearance before a congressional panel investigating the firing of federal prosecutors was postponed on Monday in deference to the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech university.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, announced that the hearing, which had been set for Tuesday, would instead be held on Thursday.
Leahy said the shooting deaths of 33 people including a suspected gunman at Virginia Tech was “a matter where our whole nation is going to be grieving tomorrow, and many individual members of both bodies (of Congress) will be joining in that grieving.”
Leahy said he decided to postpone the hearing after conferring with Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the panel’s ranking Republican, and Gonzales, whose Justice Department is helping investigate the deadliest campus shooting rampage in U.S. history.
“The attorney general is anxious to testify. But out of respect for the family members impacted by this horrific tragedy he will defer to the chairman’s judgment,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
The Judiciary Committee is looking into whether the dismissals of eight of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys last year, seven of them in December, were politically motivated.
Gonzales has denied such charges, but admits that the matter was mishandled.