- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007


The Bush administration, bowing to an uproar over its firing of eight federal prosecutors, yesterday agreed to tightening the law for replacing U.S. attorneys and letting Congress hear from senior officials with roles in the ousters.

“The attorney general told us the administration would not oppose our legislation requiring Senate confirmation for all U.S. attorneys,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, after a private meeting with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

He and other senators said Mr. Gonzales also agreed to let five of his top aides involved in the firings talk with the committee, rather than wait for the panel to authorize subpoenas.

Six of the eight ousted prosecutors told House and Senate committees on Tuesday they were dismissed without explanation. Some said the dismissals followed calls from members of Congress — Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Heather A. Wilson, New Mexico Republicans — concerning sensitive political corruption investigations.

Others said they feared the Justice Department would retaliate against them for talking with reporters and giving lawmakers information about their dismissals.

The meeting with Mr. Gonzales occurred a few hours after three Judiciary Committee Republicans dealt Mr. Gonzales and his department a public lashing for the controversy.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the committee, said the attorney general wrongly besmirched the fired U.S. attorneys in a USA Today column in which Mr. Gonzales said most of them had been dismissed for poor performance and called the uproar an “overblown personnel matter.”

“I hardly think that it’s a personnel matter,” Mr. Specter said. “And I hardly think that it’s been overblown.”

He also suggested Mr. Gonzales might suffer a similar professional fate as the fired prosecutors.

“One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later,” Mr. Specter said.

The message apparently hadn’t reached the White House.

“My view is this is unfortunately a very big attempt by some in the Congress to make a political stink about it,” presidential adviser Karl Rove yesterday told a crowd of more than 700 at an event hosted by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

The developments came two days after the fired prosecutors told their stories during eight hours of hearings by the Senate panel and the House Judiciary Committee.

The proceedings turned into a display of mudslinging. The fired prosecutors insisted they had stellar records and didn’t deserve having the Justice Department say most of them were replaced for poor performance.

At the House hearing, a Justice Department official recited before TV cameras the shortcomings of each of the ousted U.S. attorneys.

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