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Attorney General Gonzales resigns: NY Times

Reuters | August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned from office, an official confirmed on Monday.

The Justice Department refused to comment on Gonzales' departure but has scheduled a press conference for 10:30 a.m. EDT.



Attorney General Gonzales Resigns
Controversy Plagued Top Law Enforcement Official

ABC News | August 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stepped down from his post today amid a political firestorm after Congressional Democrats accused him of perjury.

He will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to announce the resignation.

President Bush is also expected to make a statement at 11:30 a.m. today.

President Bush had defended the attorney general in recent months, accusing his detractors of playing politics.

The New York Times reports that Gonzales submitted his resignation by phone to President Bush on Friday.

Bush has yet to announce a replacement for the attorney general position, but a senior Justice Department official said that a likely temporary replacement for Gonzales is Solicitor General Paul Clement, according to the Associated Press.

There are also reports that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be named as a successor to Gonzales.

The embattled attorney general had withstood months of criticism from both sides of the aisle in Congress for a variety of missteps. Lawmakers blasted Gonzales after his department fired at least eight U.S. attorneys last year and accused him of misusing terrorist surveillance programs and most recently. And Democrats charged that Gonzales had repeatedly lied to Congress under oath.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards reacted to the news of Gonzales' resignation with a statement that read: "Better late than never."

Fired U.S. Attorneys

Tension between Gonzales and Congress ratcheted up this spring, after details began emerging about last year's federal prosecutor firings. Gonzales' chief of staff and the department's White House liaison, who later admitted to having little prosecutorial experience themselves, were heavily involved in constructing the list of prosecutors to dismiss.

Members of Congress questioned the motives behind the firings, alleging that they were politically motivated. Both of the officials later stepped down.

The attorney firings, which seemed to kick off a campaign seeking the attorney general's resignation, took a back seat to criticism over the Terrorist Surveillance Program and challenges to his sworn statements before Congress.

Terrorist Surveillance Program

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 24, the attorney general dismissed then-Acting Attorney General James Comey's statement that a March 10, 2004, White House briefing with congressional leaders specifically addressed the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allowed the government to use wiretaps without court authorization. A still-classified program, possibly related to TSP, was set to expire the following day.

Shortly after that briefing Gonzales, serving at the time as White House counsel, went to the hospital with then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, apparently to ask then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-authorize the program, despite having ceded his powers to Comey while he recovered from surgery in the hospital's intensive care unit.

In May of this year, Comey recounted the run-in during dramatic testimony to Congress, saying he raced to the hospital to head off Gonzales and Card.

"I was angry," Comey said. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general."

FBI Director Backs Comey

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee July 26, FBI Director Robert Mueller backed Comey's account.

In his first public comments about the now-infamous visit, Mueller confirmed to the panel that he and Comey scrambled to post agents outside Ashcroft's hospital room.

Mueller, in his usual crisp, blunt style, said, "I don't dispute what Mr. Comey said."

But Gonzales downplayed interpretations of the visit to Ashcroft.

Gonzales Explains

Describing why he and Card urgently needed to talk to Ashcroft, Gonzales testified July 24 that the attorney general could have reclaimed his powers, "and he could always reclaim that. There are no rules" against it, he said.

Gonzales indicated that Ashcroft had previously authorized the program, noting, "From the inception, we believed that we had the approval of the attorney general of the United States for these activities."

He also noted that the White House briefing involved "other intelligence activities."

Possible Perjury Probe

Two senators on the Senate Judiciary panel, Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., both also members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, jumped on that assertion, which has been contradicted by two participants in the March 10, 2004 briefing -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

A letter from then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. also confirms that the March 10 meeting addressed the TSP.

On July 26, four Senate Democrats called for the Justice Department to assign a special prosecutor to investigate the apparent discrepancies.

"I believe it's perjury," Feingold said of Gonzales' July 24 testimony. "Not just misleading -- perjury."

Specter Weighs In

The Senate Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, has publicly called for the attorney general's resignation. He also alluded to the possibility that the panel would examine whether Gonzales has lied to Congress, telling him at the July 24 hearing, "My suggestion to you is that you review your testimony very carefully."

"The chairman's already said that the committee's going to review your testimony very carefully to see if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable," Specter continued.

But Specter did not join in on his colleagues' latest move, the July request for the special prosecutor.

"Do I support Senator Schumer's request for a special prosecutor? No," Specter said. "I think Senator Schumer has made a practice of politicizing this matter."

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