MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Before Comey's hearing on the Hill this morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The topic of his prepared remarks was the Justice Department's response to violent crime. But in a question-and-answer session afterwards, he was asked about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last December and about the resignation yesterday of his deputy, Paul McNulty.
Gonzales praised McNulty's work and called his departure a loss. But he also took the opportunity to talk of the role of the deputy attorney general pointing out just how much power that person holds.
Attorney General ALBERTO GONZALES (Department of Justice): Most of the operational authority and decisions are made by the deputy attorney general. And he is the chief operating officer - that's the way I've structured the department. And so he occupies a very central place in the work of the department.
NORRIS: Another question about who suggested which U.S. attorney should be fired prompted Gonzales to highlight his deputy's role once again. He began by saying it was his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who provided the recommendations. But Gonzales went on to say, as he said on the Hill last week, that he believed that those recommendations reflected in particular McNulty's views.
Attorney General GONZALES: The one person I would care about would be the views of the deputy attorney general, because the deputy attorney general is the direct supervisor of United States attorneys. And in this particular case, Mr. McNulty was a former colleague of all of these United States attorneys. So he would knew - he would probably know better than anyone else about the performance and the qualifications of these - of our United States attorney community.
NORRIS: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales answering questions this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Paul McNulty has maintained that he was not kept up to date on the review process and was surprised to see at least one of the names on the final list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. Alberto Gonzales has vowed to remain on the job as long as he can, and these are his words, continue to serve effectively.