Gonzales refuses to resign over widening U.S. prosecutor scandal
The Canadian Press reported today that:
WASHINGTON (CP) - An emotional U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted Tuesday there were mistakes made in a purge of prosecutors but said he won't resign amid a widening controversy involving the White House.
At issue is the Justice Department's changing answers and its independence in firing eight U.S. attorneys last year.
It's become clear officials closely consulted with top advisers to President George W. Bush.
Bush and Gonzales also discussed concerns from Republicans that some prosecutors weren't aggressively addressing voter fraud cases involving Democrats.
The 93 U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees who can be hired and fired at will. But critics say the eight got the boot for political reasons.
Now even some Republicans are criticizing how the whole thing was handled and say the White House owes everyone an explanation.
"I stand by the decision and I think it was the right decision," said Gonzales.
But he admitted Congress should have been told during recent hearings on the issue that Bush officials were involved.
At one point in 2005, former Bush counsel Harriet Miers suggested all 93 attorneys be fired at the start of the president's second term, something Gonzales dismissed as a "bad idea" and "disruptive."
Instead, he said he directed his chief of staff Kyle Sampson to evaluate "weak performers."
Sampson resigned this week. Gonzales said he wasn't involved in any of the discussions about who should be fired and he regretted the prosecutors weren't told why they were going.
"This has become as serious as it gets," said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who's leading an investigation and called on the weekend for Gonzales to resign.
"Just when we though our faith couldn't be shaken any further, it has been.
"The latest revelations prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there has been unprecedented breach of trust, abuse of power and misuse of the Justice Department."
Sampson's resignation "does not take heat off the attorney general," he said.
"In fact, it raises the temperature."
E-mails released Tuesday by Congress reveal the firings were discussed by the White House and Justice Department for two years.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said that kind of contact was appropriate and Bush never meddled.
In congressional hearings, some of the fired prosecutors said they'd been improperly pressured by Republicans on pending cases.
It's the latest blow for Gonzales, who has been closely linked with Bush since the president was Texas governor and has taken flak for siding with him on expanding executive powers in the fight against terrorism.
"I've overcome a lot of obstacles in my life to become attorney general," he said.
"I am here not because I give up. I am here because I've learned from my mistakes, because I accept responsibility and because I'm committed to doing my job,"
"Simply claiming responsibility is not enough," responded Schumer.
"Did the attorney general not know that eight U.S. attorneys were to be fired? If he didn't know he shouldn't be attorney general, plain and simple."
Even some Republicans are miffed about it all, including Senator John Ensign of Nevada who wanted answers about the dismissal of the Las Vegas prosecutor.
"I was either intentionally misled or someone was misinformed."
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