- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

A combative Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales this morning admitted making imprecise statements about the firing of eight federal prosecutors last year but contended that the firings were justified and performance-based.

“We don’t let partisan politics play a role in the decisions we make in cases,” Mr. Gonzales said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This notion that somehow we’re playing politics with cases we bring is just not true, and the American people need to understand that.”

Mr. Gonzales, who is fending off calls for his resignation from many Democratic lawmakers and a handful of Republicans, said he has no intention of quitting.

“I have to know in my heart that I can continue to be effective as a leader of this department. Sitting her today, I believe that I can,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, however, told Mr. Gonzales this afternoon that he should resign over his handling of the firing of eight federal prosecutors last year.

“The damage to the Justice Department, the attorney general, and you personally has been significant,” Mr. Coburn told Mr. Gonzales. “Communication has been terrible. Management has been terrible.”

“Mistakes have consequences,” Mr. Coburn said.

And one Democratic senator renewed his calls for Mr. Gonzales to resign.

“Anyone who watched this morning’s hearing can only come to one conclusion, and that is Alberto Gonzales should no longer be attorney general,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat.

“The contradictions continue to pile up, the ‘I don’t knows’ to the most important questions … At the core of this [is] the lack of management. He hardly knew what was going on.”

During the first several hours, senators questioned Mr. Gonzales about why the U.S. attorneys were fired, and how intimately he was involved in deciding which U.S. attorneys were to be fired.

Mr. Gonzales clashed with several senators, including Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican.

The packed hearing room also was filled with about a dozen protesters, who grew increasingly vocal as the morning wore on and shouted at Mr. Gonzales as he left for a midday break.

Mr. Gonzales explained the poor performance issues that he said justified firing the prosecutors.

“Although the process was nowhere near as rigorous or structured as it should have been … my decision to ask for the resignations of these U.S. attorneys is justified and should stand,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Story Continues →