No-Confidence Vote Sought on Gonzales
Friday, May 18, 2007
Two leading Senate Democrats called for a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday as political pressure for his resignation intensified in the wake of revelations about the plan to dismiss U.S. attorneys and Gonzales's role in a 2004 government crisis.
Sources yesterday identified four additional prosecutors who were considered for termination, bringing to 30 the number of prosecutors who were placed on Justice Department firing lists between February 2005 and December 2006. That accounts for about a third of the nation's 93 U.S. attorney positions. Nine were fired last year.
Hoping to pounce on Gonzales's sagging support among Senate Republicans, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said they will offer the no-confidence resolution on the Senate floor as early as next week.
The resolution would have no force of law, but Democrats hope it would raise the political stakes for Gonzales and for Republicans who vote to support him.
"Any faith that he can run or manage the department is gone," Schumer said. "It's going to be very surprising if we get fewer than 60 votes."
Gonzales continued to lose backing yesterday among GOP lawmakers as Norm Coleman (Minn.) became the sixth Senate Republican to call for his resignation. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) predicted Gonzales will resign once Congress completes an inquiry into the firings because he is "unable to perform his duties."
"I have a sense that when we finish our investigation, we may have a conclusion of the tenure of the attorney general," Specter said.
Gonzales has been under siege for four months because of Justice's shifting explanations for the prosecutor dismissals last year. Documents released by the department showed the effort was based in part on their loyalty to the Bush administration and its policies.
The attorney general was further damaged by testimony Tuesday from former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, who described how Gonzales, then the White House counsel, attempted to persuade then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to reauthorize a terrorism surveillance program while Ashcroft was in intensive care recovering from surgery.
The Justice Department had deemed the secret warrantless program illegal, and Comey, as acting attorney general, refused to renew it. Comey, Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and others threatened to resign before President Bush intervened, Comey testified.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Bush "should obviously seriously consider" firing Gonzales over the 2004 incident.
Bush, who has strongly supported Gonzales, declined to comment yesterday on whether he ordered Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., then Bush's chief of staff, to make the hospital visit.