Gonzales must explain appeal to Ashcroft

first_imgAt the time, Comey – in Ashcroft’s absence – had refused to certify the legality of Bush’s eavesdropping program. Gonzales tried to go over Comey’s head by appealing directly to Ashcroft, who lay in an intensive care unit recovering from gall bladder surgery, Comey said. Ashcroft rebuffed Gonzales, Comey said. Democrats said his testimony appeared to contradict Gonzales’ account in February 2006, when he told two congressional panels that there had “not been any serious disagreement about the program.” “In light of Mr. Comey’s testimony yesterday, do you stand by your 2006 Senate and House testimony, or do you wish to revise it?” Democratic Sens. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, Chuck Schumer of New York, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois asked Gonzales in a letter Wednesday. The Justice Department did not immediately respond. Citing Comey’s testimony, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who’s considering a presidential candidacy, became the latest Republican senator to call for Gonzales’ resignation. “The American people deserve an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question,” Hagel said in a statement. “Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead.” WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came under renewed pressure Wednesday, as a third senator called for his resignation and Democrats challenged his truthfulness about President George W. Bush’s no-warrant eavesdropping program. The developments revived a debate over Gonzales’ fitness to head the Justice Department a day after a former deputy attorney general recounted a dramatic hospital bedside confrontation between Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft. Bush continued to stand by his longtime friend and adviser. “The president still has full confidence in Alberto Gonzales,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said. However, the attorney general’s newly regained political footing last week before a House committee seemed in doubt again. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that Gonzales in March 2004 – when he was Bush’s White House counsel – had tried to undermine the department he now heads by attempting to get Ashcroft to sign off on the warrantless wiretaps. Asked about Hagel’s comment about Gonzales’ moral authority, Snow replied: “We disagree, and the president supports the attorney general.” Unhappy with Gonzales, most Republicans have nonetheless refrained from calling for his resignation. Republicans who have urged his ouster include Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and House GOP Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, R-Fla. In addition, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the period Comey described, said Wednesday that Gonzales should consider stepping down. “When you have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about it,” Roberts told The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy threatened Wednesday to issue more subpoenas if the White House does not cooperate with his probe of whether Bush’s White House aides, including political adviser Karl Rove, sought to improperly influence federal investigation and prosecutions. In response to an earlier subpoena, the Justice Department on Wednesday released Feb. 28 e-mails that included Rove among the recipients. They included a newspaper story about David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Rove used an e-mail address with the domain name “georgewbush.com” to receive messages about the fired prosecutors.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more