by Glynn Wilson
Alberto Gonzales, the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general and perhaps one of the most incompetent and corrupt, announced his resignation Monday in a terse statement, ending a wrenching standoff with congressional critics over his honesty and competence at the helm of the Bush Justice Department.
Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded his resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys, among other things, but President Bush had defiantly stood by his Texas friend until accepting his resignation last Friday.
Gonzales, whom Bush once considered for appointment to the Supreme Court, is the fourth top-ranking administration official to leave since November 2006.
Donald H. Rumsfeld, an architect of the Iraq war, resigned as defense secretary one day after the November elections.
Paul Wolfowitz agreed in May to step down as president of the World Bank after an ethics inquiry.
Bush’s top political and policy adviser, Karl Rove, announced earlier this month that he was stepping down.
Reacting to Gonzales’ resignation,Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that the Justice Department had “suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence.”
As attorney general and earlier as White House counsel, Gonzales pushed for expanded presidential powers, including the eavesdropping authority. He drafted controversial rules for military war tribunals and sought to limit the legal rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay – prompting lawsuits by civil libertarians who said the government was violating the Constitution in its pursuit of terrorists.
One matter still under investigation is the 2006 dismissal of several federal prosecutors, who serve at the president’s pleasure. Lawmakers said the action appeared to be politically motivated, and some of the fired U.S. attorneys said they felt pressured to investigate Democrats before elections.
“Better late than never,” said Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, summing up the response of many to the resignation, according to the Associated Press.
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