Bush starts week by expressing confidence in Gonzales
President George W. Bush began the week by expressing confidence in his embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But statements by other Republicans on Capitol Hill and even from the White House show confidence in the Attorney General is diminishing among members of his own party.
"The Attorney General went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job," the President said in a brief press stake-out.
Bush continued to be committed to the idea that the no wrongdoing would be found in the firing of 8 US Attorneys that was organized by Gonzales' lieutenants in the Justice Department.
"As the investigation, the hearings went forward, it was clear that the Attorney General broke no law, did no wrongdoing," the President added.
The President's remarks were the first he has made publicly since Gonzales' Thursday appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. White House staff have previously stated the President's confidence in the Attorney General.
On Friday, when asked if the President was tired of having to express confidence in embattled members of its administration, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino argued that it hasn't happened that often.
"When you're President of the United States and you have this many folks that you are employing, it's a pretty small number that he's had to express full confidence in," Perino answered. "All of us who serve at the pleasure of the President, if the moment he doesn't have full confidence in you, you no longer work for him. And we all take that very seriously."
Still, other Republicans were less supportive than the President.
"The attorney general's testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility," said Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee on Sunday.
Anonymously, White House staff also expressed misgivings about keeping Gonzales on.
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff quoted an anonymous White House adviser who "said the support reflected Bush's own view that a Gonzales resignation would embolden the Dems to go after other targetsólike Karl Rove."
"This is about Bush saying, 'Screw you,' said the adviser, conceding that a Gonzales resignation might still be inevitable," Isikoff added. "The trick, said the adviser, would be to find a graceful exit strategy for Bush's old friend."
A transcript of the President's exchange with the press is presented below, and is also available at the White House web site.
Q The Attorney General is still getting a lot of criticism over the U.S. attorneys situation. Was his explanation sufficient, or is there more he needs to do to try to turn things around?
THE PRESIDENT: The Attorney General went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.
One of the things that's important for the American people to understand is that the Attorney General has a right to recommend to me to replace U.S. attorneys. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. In other words, we have named them, and I have the right to replace them with somebody else. And as the investigation, the hearings went forward, it was clear that the Attorney General broke no law, did no wrongdoing. And some senators didn't like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could. This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence.