- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Support from Hispanic leaders and groups for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is mixed, amid calls for his resignation over his handling of eight fired federal prosecutors.

“He has strong support from a lot of Hispanics around the country,” said Michael L. Barrera, chief executive officer of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “He deserves to have all the facts in before there’s any judgments rendered by anyone.”

Mr. Gonzales, who served under President Bush during his Texas governorship, is the grandson of Mexican immigrants. Mr. Gonzales said last summer that his grandparents may have been illegal aliens.

“He is the first Hispanic that’s been appointed to the top law-enforcement spot in the nation. A lot of Hispanics are very proud of that fact,” Mr. Barrera said.

However, Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, said Mr. Gonzales “owes it to himself to resign, and if he doesn’t, the president should fire him.”

“As a Hispanic he has certainly disappointed me, because it is very rare that we have a Hispanic in that kind of a position,” Mr. Andrade said. “But he cannot play loose with the issue of credibility, and certainly cannot revise events to suit his purpose. He has obviously misled the Congress.”

Still other Hispanic groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens are undecided.

“The board is going to discuss the issue this week and take a position then,” said league spokeswoman Lizette Olmos.

Mr. Barrera said that at the National Hispanic Leadership Summit last week in the District, Mr. Gonzales received a standing ovation from about 350 community leaders from across the country.

Support for Mr. Gonzales among congressional Republicans is mixed as well, although Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been conspicuously silent when asked about support for Mr. Gonzales.

But the Senate’s lone Hispanic Republican, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, has voiced support for Mr. Gonzales.

“Alberto Gonzales is a man of integrity and high ethical standards. He has pledged to cooperate with Congress and I am confident he will,” said Mr. Martinez in an e-mail last week to supporters of the Republican National Committee, which he chairs.

“It is irresponsible to pronounce judgment on the replacement of the U.S. attorneys before we have the facts,” Mr. Martinez said in the e-mail.

A spokesman for Mr. Martinez declined to comment further.

Mr. Gonzales is under fresh scrutiny this week after new e-mails released Friday showed that he presided over a Nov. 27, 2006, meeting of Justice Department officials to talk about the firings 10 days before they were carried out.

Mr. Gonzales said in a March 13 press conference that he was “not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.”

“That’s basically what I knew as the attorney general,” Mr. Gonzales said after the first batch of Justice Department e-mails showed that the White House was more involved in the firings than Justice officials had told Congress.

Mr. Gonzales blamed the discrepancies in congressional testimony on a lack of communication by his former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson. Mr. Sampson will testify on the matter today before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Monica Goodling, Mr. Gonzales’ legal counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday that she will invoke her Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions that might incriminate her.

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