- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

Senate Democrats yesterday put off a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales until mid-June, as President Bush reiterated his support for the attorney general and complained that Democrats were dragging out their probe of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

“I hope … that the attorney general will realize that stepping down is the right thing to do and will do so before we have to cast our vote,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat who helped draw up the no-confidence resolution.

Mr. Schumer had said last week that the measure might come to the floor this week. However, he said yesterday that after talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, they agreed to postpone the measure until after the immigration debate.

Congress is on recess next week for Memorial Day and returns to work on June 4. The Senate will continue the immigration debate during its first week after the break.

Mr. Bush, repeating a criticism that he made earlier this week, said the Democrat-led probe into the firings of eight federal prosecutors last year has become “grand political theater.”

“This investigation is taking a long time. It’s … kind of being drug out, I suspect, for political questions, political reasons,” Mr. Bush said during a press conference in the Rose Garden.

“I’ve got confidence in Al Gonzales doing the job,” he added.

Mr. Gonzales, however, came under scrutiny again yesterday after his former White House liaison, Monica M. Goodling, told Congress on Wednesday that he may have tried to influence her testimony.

Miss Goodling said that in mid-March, about a week after Congress had requested that she testify about the U.S. attorney firings, she spoke with Mr. Gonzales in his office. She said that he began to talk about the firings and that it made her “uncomfortable.”

“Let me tell you what I can remember,” Mr. Gonzales told Miss Goodling, according to her testimony. “He laid out for me his general recollection of … some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys. And then he asked me if I had any reaction.

“I just did not know if it was a conversation that we should be having, and so I just didn’t say anything,” she said.

The Justice Department yesterday responded to Miss Goodling’s testimony by saying that Mr. Gonzales was simply trying to comfort a distraught employee.

But Mr. Schumer said Miss Goodling’s testimony “intensified the need for a new attorney general.”

A Senate librarian said that no-confidence votes are uncommon, and a legal analyst said that if such a vote does take place, Mr. Gonzales would be seriously compromised.

“An expression of nonsupport that included a significant number of Republicans would be something that the attorney general could not in good conscience disregard, as unfair as it would be,” said Douglas Kmiec, an assistant attorney general under President Reagan who now teaches at Pepperdine University.

So far, six Republican senators have called on Mr. Gonzales to resign, but one of those lawmakers — Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — said he would not support Mr. Schumer’s no-confidence measure.

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