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Politics

Fire Gonzales, says Republican senator

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published March 15, 2007


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WASHINGTON - Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire on Wednesday became the first Republican in Congress to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' dismissal, hours after President Bush expressed confidence in his embattled Cabinet officer.

Gonzales has been fending off Democratic demands for his firing in the wake of disclosures surrounding the ousters of eight U.S. attorneys - dismissals Democrats have characterized as a politically motivated purge.

Support from many Republicans had been muted, but there was no outright GOP call for his dismissal until now.

"I think the president should replace him," Sununu said. "I think the attorney general should be fired."

Bush, at a news conference in Mexico, told reporters when asked about the controversy: "Mistakes were made. And I'm frankly not happy about them."

But the president expressed confidence in Gonzales, a longtime friend, and defended the firings. "What Al did and what the Justice Department did was appropriate," he said.

Still, Bush left himself room to sack the attorney general.

"What was mishandled was the explanation of the cases to the Congress," Bush said. "And Al's got work to do up there."

The developments unfolded as presidential aides labored to protect White House political director Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers from congressional subpoenas. The Senate Judiciary Committee was considering seeking subpoenas for Rove, Miers, deputy White House counsel William Kelley and five Justice Department officials.

Sununu has long been a critic of what he has said were the White House's disregard for civil liberties in its war on terrorism and played a large part in forcing the administration to accept new curbs on its power during the reauthorization of the Patriot Act last year.

On Tuesday, he said firings of the prosecutors, and a report Friday by the Justice Department's inspector general criticizing the administration's use of secret national security letters to obtain personal records in terrorism probes, shattered his confidence in Gonzales.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 02:22:37]


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