My fate in Bush’s hands, say US Attorney General
WASHINGTON – US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday his fate was in the hands of President George W. Bush, but denied his department sacked eight government prosecutors for political reasons.
“Ultimately, I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States,” Gonzales told NBC. “That will be a decision for the president to make.”
Gonzales, whose own chief of staff resigned Tuesday over Washington’s newest political scandal, said he had not known of the details of the alleged effort by the White House and Justice Department officials to force out US attorneys who were not seen as cooperative by the White House and Republican politicians.
“We simply were doing our job in evaluating who was performing, where we could do better, where there was some dissatisfaction,” he told Fox News.
But, he acknowledged that “mistakes” were made in how the dismissals were handled.
“I am responsible for what happened, ultimately, at the Department of Justice,” he told NBC.
Gonzales, one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the Bush administration, served as White House council before being promoted to the top Justice job.
As Bush’s lawyer he famously argued that war-on-terror suspects should not be afforded all the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Opponents have argued that position opened the door to torture.
On Tuesday, a top advisor to Bush said the president did not order the prosecutor purge, but rejected calls for Gonzales’s ouster.
“The president has all the confidence in the world in Alberto Gonzales as the attorney general for the United States of America,” Dan Bartlett told reporters in Merida, Mexico, where Bush was wrapping up a week-long Latin American tour.
Bartlett said Bush had received complaints from fellow Republicans about the US attorneys on issues such as prosecuting voter fraud cases and passed such concerns along to Gonzales in an October 2006 meeting.
But “there was no directive given, as far as telling him to fire anybody or anything like that,” the adviser said.
Bartlett also insisted that the resignation of Gonzales’s chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, should not be read as confirmation that political pressures led to the prosecutors’ removal, saying it stemmed from the failure to share information properly with other justice department staff.
Gonzales has not offered Bush his resignation, Bartlett added.