- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

The White House yesterday said Democratic plans to hold a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales next week are part of a “bottomless bag of tricks,” and that President Bush continues to have “full confidence” in the attorney general.

“We know that this has been a difficult period, dealing with the discussion and questions having to do with the U.S. attorneys,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “But the attorney general is sticking to his job. We feel he’s been a very strong attorney general, and we continue to support him.”

Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California on Thursday said they will introduce the no-confidence resolution to create more political momentum against Mr. Gonzales.

Mr. Schumer said yesterday that “instead of deflecting the problem, the White House ought to roll up the sleeves and get the Justice Department working again because just about everyone in America has lost confidence in its present leadership.”

Republican support for Mr. Gonzales crumbled further this week after former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey testified on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Comey said that in March 2004, Mr. Gonzales, then White House counsel, made a late-evening visit to the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to get him to reauthorize a domestic surveillance program.

Mr. Ashcroft, who was so sick that his powers had been transferred at the time to Mr. Comey, rebuffed Mr. Gonzales.

Mr. Comey, who had refused to sign off on the surveillance program because he did not think it complied with the law, said he was angered by what he considered “an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said Mr. Gonzales had “lost the moral authority to lead,” and called on him to resign.

Republican support for the attorney general slipped even further on Thursday.

Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, became the fifth senator in his party to call for Mr. Gonzales’ resignation. The three other Republican senators who have called on Mr. Gonzales to resign are Sens. John McCain of Arizona, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

In addition, two other Republican senators — Christopher S. Bond of Missouri and Pat Roberts of Kansas — indicated that perhaps the attorney general should step down.

But even some Republicans who have called on Mr. Gonzales to resign said this week they will not support the no-confidence measure.

“It serves no other purpose other than to raise money for Democratic candidates,” said Coburn spokesman John Hart, referring to Mr. Schumer’s role as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, his party’s chief fundraising arm.

The White House said that Mr. Bush’s support for Mr. Gonzales did not depend on the political winds.

“It’s important for any public official to have as much confidence as he can garner. And that’s going to ebb and flow, but it will not ebb and flow with this president and this attorney general,” Mr. Fratto said.

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