Reports: Firing of All U.S. Attorneys Was Proposed

There are reports that the White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys. The Washington Post and The New York Times report that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved dismissing a smaller group.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We know a little more this morning about how some U.S. attorneys came to be fired. The Bush administration is under scrutiny for replacing prosecutors who are supposed to be above politics. Now the administration is providing documents to Congress that suggest the White House was involved in the firings.

A White House spokeswoman told The Washington Post and The New York Times that President Bush spoke with his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, about some prosecutors. In particular, the president was concerned that some U.S. attorneys were not pursuing voter fraud cases of interest to Republican candidates in last year's election.

Within a few weeks, seven prosecutors were forced out of their jobs. Now New York Senator Charles Schumer is one of several Democratic lawmakers who want Gonzales to resign.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man, but he either doesn't accept or doesn't understand that he is no longer just the president's lawyer but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution, even when the president should not want it to be so.

INSKEEP: That's New York Senator Charles Schumer speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation." A White House spokeswoman said yesterday that the prosecutors were removed for performance reasons and that the move was, quote, "perfectly appropriate and within our discretion."

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