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Gonzales to face new attorney queries

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 10, 2007


WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, seeking to clear the air surrounding the firings last year of eight U.S. attorneys, is expected to face tough new questions today on Capitol Hill about the Justice Department's replacement of top prosecutors in two battleground states.

Among other topics, members of the House Judiciary Committee are expected to ask Gonzales about turmoil in the U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota where a young lawyer, Rachel Paulose, has generated controversy since she was named in 2006 to replace a department veteran, Tom Heffelfinger.

Lawmakers also want to know whether another former U.S. attorney, Todd Graves of Kansas City, Mo., was forced out last year for not endorsing a voter-fraud lawsuit against Missouri in November 2005. That suit, launched by his successor, was eventually dismissed by a court as baseless.

Heffelfinger, who resigned in February 2006, has said he did so voluntarily and was not aware of any pressure to leave. However, congressional staffers confirm that his name appeared at one point on the list of U.S. attorneys to be removed.

Graves said Wednesday that he was asked to step down from his job by a senior Justice Department official in January 2006, months before eight other federal prosecutors would be fired by the Bush administration.

OTHER NEWS

WASHINGTON - The White House threatened on Wednesday to veto a proposed House bill that would pay for the Iraq war only through July - a limit Defense Secretary Robert Gates said would be disastrous.

Democrats leaders on Capitol Hill wrestled with how to support the troops but still challenge President Bush on the war. Bush has requested more than $90 billion to sustain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.

"With this latest veto threat, the president has once again chosen confrontation over cooperation, " said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

House Democratic leaders are pushing legislation that would provide the military $42.8-billion to keep operations going through July, buy new equipment and train Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Congress would decide shortly before its August recess whether to release an additional $52.8-billion to fund the war through September.

"In essence, the bill asks me to run the Department of Defense like a skiff, and I'm trying to drive the biggest supertanker in the world, " Gates told senators Wednesday. "And we just don't have the agility to be able to manage a two-month appropriation very well."