tampabay.com

Bush still stands by Gonzales

Revelations don't conflict with Gonzales' stance, the White House says.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published March 25, 2007


WASHINGTON - The White House and a key Republican senator reaffirmed support Saturday for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even as Democrats questioned his credibility for apparently misrepresenting his role in firing eight federal prosecutors.

Critics said the latest document disclosure - more than 280 pages of e-mails, calendar notations and other documents sent to Congress late Friday - bolstered their case for Gonzales' ouster.

Yet one longtime ally who largely has kept quiet about the attorney general's fate issued a statement of support.

"He has always been straightforward and honest with me," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "So, unless there is clear evidence that the attorney general deliberately lied or misled Congress, I see no reason to call for his resignation."

Gonzales has said he participated in no discussions and saw no memos about plans to carry out the firings on Dec. 7 that Democrats contend were politically motivated.

His schedule, however, shows he attended at least one hourlong meeting, on Nov. 27, during which he approved a detailed plan to execute the prosecutors' firings.

Six of the eight prosecutors who were ordered to resign are named in the plan.

Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his - and, presumably, Gonzales' - role in planning and carrying out the dismissals.

"How much scrutiny do we have to put behind everything the attorney general says?" said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the House Judiciary Committee chairman. "I know he's busy, and he could have done things that he didn't remember, but we're going to give him as much rope as he needs."

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Nov. 27 meeting "widens the gap between the evolving explanations the Bush administration has offered and the facts that keep coming to light."

But White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the documents do not conflict with Gonzales' earlier statements.

"The president continues to have confidence in the attorney general," Perino said. "As the Justice Department said last night, these new documents are not inconsistent with its previous statements."

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Saturday there are no plans for Gonzales to resign.

Roehrkasse said Gonzales does not remember "deliberations over which U.S. attorneys should or should not be replaced."

"Towards the end of the process, he recalls a discussion with Sampson about the list of names recommended for replacement and some of the considerations that went into those recommendations," Roehrkasse said of Gonzales. "He concurred."