- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday said he will not resign — despite growing opposition and criticism from members of his own party — and President Bush defied the political currents by stating that his confidence in Mr. Gonzales has only grown stronger.

Mr. Gonzales said he will stay on as attorney general “as long as I can continue to serve effectively.”

“There are a series of priorities, a series of objectives, that I want to see accomplished,” Mr. Gonzales said. “I’ve already indicated that I’ve made mistakes, and I accept responsibility for that.”

Mr. Bush is backing his attorney general, saying Mr. Gonzales had strengthened his position with his testimony last week about his role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

“The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job,” Mr. Bush said.

Some Republican lawmakers, however, say Mr. Gonzales no longer can be effective because of how he oversaw the removal of the federal prosecutors last year.

“He has lost his credibility,” said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who said Mr. Gonzales’ continued tenure would be “harmful” to the Justice Department.

“When he said that he wasn’t involved in discussions or deliberations, and then is contradicted by his three top aides and also by documentary evidence … his credibility has been substantially undermined,” Mr. Specter said. “And I think it does hurt the administration, and inevitably, it hurts the [Republican] Party.”

Mr. Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has resisted calling for Mr. Gonzales’ resignation, saying it is Mr. Bush’s decision.

But Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, last week told Mr. Gonzales during a five-hour hearing that even though he does not think the attorney general did anything illegal or improperly political, Mr. Gonzales should resign because he mismanaged the firings.

Aides to some House Republican leaders have said privately for weeks that Mr. Gonzales is a liability, and yesterday presidential candidates joined in.

“The attorney general is clearly creating a major distraction for the president and for the administration and for the Republican Party,” said Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and White House hopeful.

But Mr. Bush, speaking with reporters in the Oval Office after a briefing by Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, acknowledged that “some senators didn’t like [Mr. Gonzales’] explanation.”

“It was clear that the attorney general broke no law, did no wrongdoing,” Mr. Bush said. “This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence.”

Many Republicans have said they are troubled by Mr. Gonzales’ lack of knowledge about the firings and his inability to recall important conversations related to the firings. They say his sloppy management and explanations have damaged the Justice Department by casting doubt on the firings.

Mr. Gonzales said that despite lawmakers’ dissatisfaction, he can still get things done on Capitol Hill.

“I have an obligation to work with the Congress and I will continue to work with the Congress,” he said.

The White House expressed similar optimism.

“There is no doubt that there are some people who don’t support the attorney general. But you heard the president today. He does,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

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