More GOP Senators Critical of Gonzales

By Paul Kane Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Despite vocal backing from President Bush, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales faced new doubts yesterday within his own party about whether he should stay on the job amid strong criticism about his handling of the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys.

Several Senate Republicans spoke out against Gonzales for the first time, voicing deep concerns about his performance before the Judiciary Committee last week. "I think there's a huge credibility issue at the Justice Department," said Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.). "I continue, even after his testimony, to have grave doubts."

"I think the attorney general is on a tightrope, and he and the president need to make a decision before very long," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).

On Monday, Bush said his confidence in Gonzales had grown after the attorney general's performance at the Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday. He repeated his support for the embattled Gonzales in an interview on public television's "Charlie Rose" show yesterday.

The continuing criticism of Gonzales from Republicans in the face of such support from Bush is unusual, but there were no new calls for the attorney general's resignation from prominent GOP lawmakers. Coleman noted that he is "walking up to the line" without calling for a resignation, a request that, he said, should come only from Bush.

Gonzales's testimony last week was meant to quell the furor surrounding the firings of the prosecutors last year. After a series of changing explanations that conflicted with information in thousands of pages of internal Justice Department documents, Republicans had hoped a strong performance by Gonzales would mute calls for his resignation. Instead, Republican criticism has grown.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also said only Bush could demand a resignation. "It's his call," she said. "I don't think the attorney general has served the country or the president particularly well."

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