Attorney General

Observers Differ Over Gonzales' Future


As 15 Democratic members of Congress piled onto the controversy over Albert Gonzales by calling yesterday for a investigation of whether “sufficient grounds” to impeach him exist, observers are split about the U.S. attorney general’s future.

“Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse,” Douglas Kmiec, a former Justice Department legal counsel under President Ronald Reagan tells Bloomberg. “The natural progression of this is not healthy for the department and is not favorable for the attorney general.”

As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, four senators have recently amped up the campaign against Gonzales by formally requesting a Justice Department investigation of possible perjury, and the New York Times urged impeachment as an alternative in a Sunday editorial.

However, other observers say the situation, while obviously problematic, may still weigh in favor of Gonzales staying in office as the country’s chief law enforcement officer.

The perjury investigation called for last week by four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee would be a difficult case to prove, points out Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor who now teaches at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. And there’s an incentive for President George W. Bush to continue to support Gonzales: It would be very difficult in the current political climate to select a replacement attorney general who could readily win Senate confirmation, adds Philip Heymann, a Harvard Law School professor who was deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.

“It’s risky in a lot of ways for the administration,” says Heymann, no matter what Bush does. “The alternative is a politically weak attorney general or a dangerously independent attorney general.”

In an editorial today, the Chicago Tribune notes that it called for Gonzales to go months earlier. But “another special counsel with a blank checkbook and an open-ended agenda” is not what this country needs right now, the editorial continues.

“The Bush administration allowed politics to trump public interest at the Justice Department,” the Tribune writes. “Democrats are in danger of making the same mistake on Capitol Hill.”

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