- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, fighting to save his job, said in prepared Senate testimony yesterday that he has “nothing to hide” in the firings of eight federal prosecutors but said his memory was hazy about his involvement.

Two Republican senators said Mr. Gonzales has yet to shore up his credibility amid shifting explanations of his role in the dismissals. Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed White House support for the attorney general — but left it to Mr. Gonzales to defend himself to lawmakers who have called for his resignation.

In his 25-page statement, Mr. Gonzales apologized for embarrassing the eight U.S. attorneys and their families by letting their ousters erupt into a political firestorm that has engulfed the Justice Department since January. He maintained that the firings were not improper but said he remembers having only an indirect role in the plans beyond approving them.

“I have nothing to hide, and I am committed to assuring the Congress and the American public that nothing improper occurred here,” Mr. Gonzales said in prepared testimony released before he appears tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel, which oversees the Justice Department, is investigating whether the firings were politically motivated.

“I am sorry for my missteps that have helped to fuel the controversy,” he said.

Mr. Gonzales added: “In hindsight, I would have handled this differently. … Looking back, it is clear to me that I should have done more personally to ensure that the review process was more rigorous, and that each U.S. attorney was informed of this decision in a more personal and respectful way.”

Mr. Cheney said he and President Bush continue to have “every confidence” in Mr. Gonzales and looked forward to hearing his testimony. Lawmakers also are questioning whether White House officials, including chief political strategist Karl Rove, played a role in the firings.

“This took place inside the Justice Department,” Mr. Cheney said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “The one who needs to answer to that and lay out on the record the specifics of what transpired is the attorney general, and he’ll do so.”

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter said Mr. Gonzales has a difficult battle ahead in convincing the public he can lead the Justice Department.

“The No. 1 question is, is he capable of administering the Department of Justice, did he have enough hands on to know what’s happening?” said Mr. Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate panel’s top Republican. “Can he explain why these individuals were asked to resign and justify the reasons for doing so?

“He’s got a steep hill to climb,” said Mr. Specter, who spoke on ABC’s “This Week.” “He’s going to be successful only if he deals with the facts.”

In his written testimony, Mr. Gonzales said he vaguely remembers discussions about the firings, including being asked about at least two possible replacements for vacant U.S. attorney jobs.

He also said he recalled “two specific instances” when he was told that then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers was seeking updates of the Justice Department’s prosecutor evaluations.

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