Gonzales Resigns as Attorney General
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.
Good news, if long overdue.
Oddly, President Bush not only didn’t push this move on Gonzales but apparently tried to talk him out of it, at least according to Steven Lee Myers of the NYT:
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not announced immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.
Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
Earlier this month, at a news conference, Mr. Bush dismissed accusations that Mr. Gonzales had had stonewalled or misled a congressional inquiry. “We’re watching a political exercise,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean, this is a man who has testified, he’s sent thousands of papers up there. There’s no proof of wrong.”
Mr. Gonzales’s resignation is the latest in a series of high-level departures that has reshaped the end of Mr. Bush’s second term. Karl Rove, another of Mr. Bush’s close circle of aides from Texas, stepped down two weeks ago.
The official who disclosed the resignation today said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales’s and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over Mr. Gonzales had made his continuing as attorney general difficult. “The unfair treatment that he’s been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department,” the official said.
ABC News highlights several of the controversies that plagued Gonzales’ tenure, including inconsistent testimony about the firing of U.S. Attorneys and the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
U.S. News‘ Paul Bedard reported Friday on rumors that Gonzales will be replaced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has “fans on Capitol Hill, is untouched by the Justice prosecutor scandal, and has more experience than Gonzales did, having served as a federal judge and assistant attorney general.” That move would go a long way to righting the ship at Justice. It would come at the price, though, of signaling yet again that DHS is viewed as a joke.