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|ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES RESIGNS
SCANDAL OVER UNTIMELY FIRING OF US ATTORNEYS, UNDER INVESTIGATION IN CONGRESS, MADE GONZALES INEFFECTIVE, UNTRUSTED LEADER
27 August 2007
US attorney general Alberto Gonzales has resigned his office, according to sources in the administration. Amid accusations of political abuses and incompetence, prominent members of Congress from both parties had been calling for Gonzales to step down, for several months. A probe into his role in the firing of 8 US attorneys in December of last year, allegedly for political reasons, has called into question his leadership at the Department of Justice.
The AP reports "Gonzales, 52, called Bush on Friday to inform him of his resignation, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to not pre-empt Gonzales' statement. The president had Gonzales come to lunch at his ranch on Sunday as a parting gesture."
Gonzales has long served alongside George W. Bush, as counsel and as prosecutor, both when he was governor of Texas and since he entered the White House. He was the author of controversial policy memos suggesting torture could be legal, if the administration convinced Congress or the courts there were loopholes in the Geneva Conventions and Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibitions.
He was considered by Bush as a potential nominee to the Supreme Court, until his involvement in the 'torture memo' issue garnered stiff opposition, questions about his devotion to the Constitution —which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment" and requires "due process of law"—, and thus made his nomination too risky in political terms.
Opposition in Congress to Gonzales' continuing at Justice may have spread through the Republican leadership as well due to his hard-nosed style of answering, or not answering, questions. The San Jose Mercury News reports "Lawmakers had voiced doubts about his truthfulness in combative and often evasive testimony to Congress."
Since the November elections of 2006, Gonzales is the fourth prominent member of the Bush administration to step down. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who presided over the invasion of Iraq, prison abuse scandals, was allegedly invovled in the planning of a network of secret —and extrajudicial— prison camps, and accused of dealing clumsily with post-Saddam insurgents in Iraq, resigned one day after the Democrats won both houses of Congress.
Embattled former national security adviser Paul Wolfowitz stepped down from his post at the World Bank in the heat of an ethics probe. And the president's top political adviser, chief architect of every successful political campaign he has been part of, Karl Rove, who was implicated in the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA operative —though prosecutors did not pursue criminal charges—, resigned earlier this month amid accusations he was involved in the Department of Justice firings as well.
According to the Houston Chronicle, "Thousands of documents released by the Justice Department show a White House plot, hatched shortly after the 2004 elections, to replace U.S. attorneys. At one point, senior White House officials, including Rove, suggested replacing all 93 prosecutors. In December 2006, eight were ordered to resign."
Accused of ordering the firings to obstruct prosecution of Republicans or to pursue Democratic politicians more aggressively, Gonzales told Congress in hearings earlier this year "I would not retaliate for partisan political reasons. That's not something that I believe is acceptable, and would not tolerate."
But some members of Congress maintained that his sworn testimony was incoherent and contradictory. Republican lawmakers urged him to "correct" his spoken testimony in writing to avoid a possible investigation for perjury, and Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, characterized his time at the Department of Justice as "dysfunctional", urging him to resign.
Bloomberg reports "Some Senate Democrats called for a special prosecutor to examine Gonzales's truthfulness, while 15 House Democrats sought an impeachment inquiry." It is thought the litany of accusations and suspicions, the animosity that gathered between the attorney general and both parties in Congress, and an atmosphere of distrust at the department he headed, made it unlikely his leadership would achieve the results he or the president had hoped for.
This summer, questions arose as to his testimony about what transpired when White House officials, himself included, sought to persuade the incapacitated John Ashcroft —then attorney general, but whose post was being filled by an interim AG— to sign an approval of an illegal NSA spy program, despite opposition from the acting AG.
Testimony this summer by both Ashcroft's substitute and the FBI director, Robert Mueller, suggested Gonzales had deliberately misled Congress. While the White House continues to defend Gonzales, the probe into the firing of 8 federal prosecutors potentially broadened when "Todd Graves of Missouri has told committee investigators he was forced out more than a year earlier after he refused to back a Justice Department lawsuit charging Democratic voter fraud in the state", as reported by the AP. [s]
As calls increase in president's party, and in Congress, for the attorney general to resign, the Senate has voted overwhelmingly to strip the government of a special power to name federal proseucutors without an approval process. The investigations into whether political motivations were at play in the firing of 8 US attorneys last year let the Senate to vote 94 to 2 to oppose the special post-9/11 power. [Full Story]
ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER FIRE FOR POLITICAL DISMISSALS
Investigations by the judiciary committees in both the House and the Senate are probing the suspicious nature of the untimely dismissal of at least 8 US attorneys, for what appear to be political reasons. The White House had claimed there was not strategy to fire en masse, until it was revealed that there was in fact consultation on firing all US attorneys and replacing them with political loyalists. [Full Story]
JUSTICE DEPT. ADMITS MISTAKES IN FIRING US ATTORNEYS
The Justice Department's new performance rating system has come under fire, after the firing of 8 US attorneys was called into question. The cases were not clearly cases of underperformance, but seemed to indicate there had been political motivations for the dismissals. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has now admitted that the program was not applied properly in some of those cases and promises to improve the evaluations policy. [Full Story]
HIGH COURT ALLOWS DEMOTION FOR DISSENT
The freedom of speech is one of the foundational rights under US constitutional law, as manifest in the First Amendment, because it affords the common citizen a protection against a basic authoritarian abuse of power. Now, the US Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 4 that public employees do not enjoy First Amendment protections while on duty. [Full Story]
GOV'T POLICY UNLAWFULLY CRIMINALIZES COMMENT ON SCIENTIFIC FACT
The global environment is, of course, a global issue, one that touches every life on the planet, and the science about it should be open and available to all. Past government policy and existing federal law mean that such scientific evidence should be readily available to the public. But now, it appears that several agencies are laboring to silence scientists who are researching climate trends and alterations. [Full Story]
COURT FILING CITES 'CONCERTED EFFORT' TO ATTACK CRITICS
Regardless of whether the president or the vice president have done anything illegal, it is now clear that they were both involved in deliberately using classified national security information to smear a critic of their Iraq policy. This contradicts statements made as recently as last week which suggest that the president opposed any such use of sensitive information for personal or political gain. [Full Story]