House Democrat on Gonzales: The country cannot wait
A Democratic Congressman who is pushing for a vote of no confidence against the Attorney General said in a late afternoon press conference that Alberto Gonzales had 'low regard' for the US Attorneys working for the Justice Department, and that the country cannot wait for the end of the Bush administration to bring his tenure to a close.
"I was most disturbed in particular that the Attorney General testified that he saw nothing improper about firing a good US Attorney for no reason other than to make way for a political appointee whose resume the Justice Department or White House wanted to improve. That tells me he has a very low regard for the Attorneys in his charge," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Capitol Hill on Monday.
He added, "We do not believe that his continued tenure in the Department of Justice is in the best interests of that Department, and the country cannot wait and drift for another one and half years of his leadership at the helm."
Schiff gave the press conference with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a co-sponsor of the no confidence motion that Schiff formally filed on Monday. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), who has led the sponsorship of the motion with Schiff, was not available.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz compared Gonzales' behavior with President Richard Nixon's 'Saturday Night Massacre' in order to accuse Gonzales of not being trustworthy in carrying out the law.
"Attorney General Richardson resigned in protest because he refused to engage in acts that he believed were either unconstitutional or illegal, and I honestly don't have the confidence that if the President asked Attorney General Gonzales to do something in either one of those categories, that he would make that same decision," she said. "I think he would just carry out instructions, and that is totally inappropriate, unacceptable, and un-American."
While he agreed that only Democrats, a dozen of them, had co-sponsored the motion, Rep. Schiff predicted that Republicans supported it in spirit.
"Some very prominent Republicans both in the House and Senate have called for the Attorney General to resign. The call for him to step down has been bipartisan," he said. "The third-ranking Republican in the House has called for his resignation, so I think the sentiment that he should go is bipartisan, and I hope it will be reflected in support for the resolution as well."
Schiff was referring to Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL), Chairman of the policy-setting Republican Conference, who has called on the Attorney General to resign
Rep. Wasserman Schultz emphasized that she and Schiff were hopeful Gonzales would resign before the motion came to a vote, as implied by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) this weekend. But if Gonzales did not quit his post in the Bush administration, she said the no confidence measure would serve a useful function.
"In the event that he does not, I am hopeful that this will come to a vote...and we can bring the full pressure and weight of the House of Representatives and the Senate to bear on Attorney General Gonzales so he makes the right decision," she said.
Schiff was asked if he was contemplating the impeachment of Gonzales, but the California Democrat believed it was too soon to call for that step.
"I think there's ample evidence right now to demonstrate right now that this Attorney General has mismanaged the department. And I think he should go. Whether there is evidence down the road to go beyond that, I can't say," he noted. "That's not I think the step you take in a matter of first instance...I think it should be last resort."
He also acknowledged that there were other pressing priorities at this time, particularly the Iraq War supplemental funding legislation, and that he doubted the no confidence motion would come to a vote this week.
"I don't anticipate that this will be taken up for a vote this week, and again, that might be for the best," Schiff explained, as he hoped it would build pressure for the Attorney General to step down.
Elsewhere in the House of Representatives today, Democratic Congress members who are investigating the firing of the 8 US Attorneys renewed their focus on another area of concern: the White House's role in deciding which Attorneys were and were not fired.
"Even without a single document or witness interview provided by the White House, it is clear that the White House played an important role in the events concerning the US Attorney controversy," Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding. "If the White House persists in refusing to provide information to the House Judiciary Committee, or even to discuss providing such information, on a voluntary basis, we will have no alternative but to begin to resort to the compulsory process in order to carry out our oversight responsibilities."
Conyers and Sanchez's Judiciary Committee also received a new tranche of documents from the Justice Department late on Monday, totaling 11 files and hundreds of pages