Gonzales Resigns as Attorney General Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation Monday morning. Gonzales will remain in his post until Sept. 17. "Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days," Gonzales said.

Gonzales Resigns as Attorney General

Gonzales Resigns as Attorney General

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Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation Monday morning. Gonzales will remain in his post until Sept. 17. "Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days," Gonzales said.


From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Alex Cohen. Madeleine Brand is away.

CHADWICK: The big story of the day, the embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, has resigned his job. Here he is today announcing his resignation from the U.S. Justice Department in Washington.

Mr. ALBERTO GONZALES (U.S. Attorney General): Good morning. Thirteen years ago I entered public service to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And during this time I have traveled a remarkable journey, from my home state of Texas to Washington, D.C., supported by the unwavering love and encouragement of my wife Rebecca and our sons Jared, Graham and Gabriel.

Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States effective as of September 17th, 2007.

Let me say that it's been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice. I have great admiration and respect for the men and women who work here. I have made a point as attorney general to personally meet as many of them as possible, and today I want to again thank them for their service to our nation.

It is through their continued work that our country and our communities remain safe, that the rights and civil liberties of our citizens are protected and the hopes and dreams of all of our children are secured.

I often remind our fellow citizens that we live in the greatest country in the world and that I have lived the American dream. Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days.

Public service is honorable and noble. And I am profoundly grateful to President Bush for his friendship and for the many opportunities he has given me to serve the American people. Thank you, and God bless America.

CHADWICK: That's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington this morning saying he will leave his job. A little while after that, President Bush got off a helicopter in Waco, Texas, stepped up to a microphone, and gave this statement.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: After months of unfair treatment that has created harmful - a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, the Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position, and I accept his decision. It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeding from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.

CHADWICK: That's President Bush on the resignation his attorney general. Joining us now from Washington, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, welcome back to the program. Do we know why Mr. Gonzales has decided to leave this position now after really months of demands that he should go?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, that's what's interesting. You know, the strategy had appeared to be a sort of rope-a-dope strategy in which Gonzales was on the ropes taking punches from his critics day after day until they would finally exhaust themselves. And his resignation was very closely held. Apparently, he actually resigned on Friday and we didn't really find out about it until this morning. In Washington terms, that's a long time to keep a secret.

CHADWICK: So do we know who's going - here's another secret - who's going to get the job now? Where is it going to go? What do you think?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, it's interesting. That ball is moving as well. This morning everyone seemed - my sources seemed absolutely sure that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was going to get it. And the calculus was that he was qualified because he as a past Justice Department official and was a federal judge. And he was known to want the job. Then a little bit later this morning, Senator Patrick Leahy came out and he seemed to be against Chertoff as a pick. Now people are talking about Senator Orrin Hatch as being a possibility.

This is the way it works in Washington. This is one of those favorite parlor games where everybody is second-guessing and sending up trial balloons. So I think we'll get that for a couple of days before the mist sort of clears.

CHADWICK: Well, presumably Senator Hatch would have an easier time at confirmation hearings than some others might. I mean he would be looking at his old colleagues on the Senate Justice Committee.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. And Michael Chertoff has the albatross around his neck of the way DHS handled the Katrina relief program. So in a lot of ways it would be much easier if it was one of their own standing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

CHADWICK: Well, Michael Chertoff or Senator Hatch or who knows what other names, it may be difficult to get someone through these hearings in the next month or so anyway.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, this is the idea behind the rope-a-dope strategy that most of us in Washington thought the Bush administration was going to continue, that things couldn't get any worse for Alberto Gonzales and they assumed that if he just kept taking the punches they could move forward. But he became such a distraction and morale at the Justice Department had such taken such a dive that I think they finally decided that enough was enough and they would risk actually trying to send someone up to the Senate for confirmation.

CHADWICK: NPR's Dina Temple Raston. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE-RASTON: My pleasure.

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Role in Controversial Bush Policies

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' decision to step down comes months after critics began calling for his resignation over the firing of U.S. attorneys. But Gonzales was also a central figure in the development of controversial Bush administration policies — including those on the treatment of prisoners and on domestic surveillance. Read an overview of Gonzales' areas of influence.

Quick Profile: Gonzales

Alberto Gonzales became the nation's 80th attorney general on Feb. 3, 2005, after a four-year stint as White House counsel.

Gonzales, who just celebrated his 52nd birthday, spent much time in government posts prior to working for the Bush Administration in Washington. He served as a justice on the Supreme Court in Texas, as secretary of state in Texas, and as general counsel to Bush during Bush's time as governor of Texas.

He spent more than 10 years at the law firm Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. before moving from private practice, where he ascended to firm partner, into the public sector.

Gonzales, who grew up in Texas, earned an undergraduate degree from Rice University and a law degree from Harvard University. He is married and has three sons.

Gonzales Timeline

Read about key moments in Alberto Gonzales' career — from his days as general counsel to then-Texas Gov. George Bush to his time as U.S. attorney general.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday he would resign his White House post effective Sept. 17, ending a protracted standoff with Congressional critics over the Justice Department's handling of FBI terrorism investigations and the firing of U.S. attorneys.

"It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Justice Department," Gonzales said in a brief statement to journalists.

"I have lived the American dream," said Gonzales, the first Hispanic to serve in the post. "Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days."

As attorney general and, earlier, as White House counsel, Gonzales pushed for expanded presidential powers, including the authority to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. He also 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.

Gonzales came under intense criticism and pressure to resign over what critics said were politically motivated firings of federal prosecutors. He is among about a dozen senior administration officials who have resigned amid the protracted congressional investigation into the matter.

The president, in a brief statement of his own later Monday, thanked Gonzales for his service, crediting him with helping shape the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act — some of the very things that so infuriated his detractors.

Mr. Bush called Gonzales' resignation "sad" and said he is a "man of integrity, decency and principle."

The president said "months of unfair treatment" had kept Gonzales from "doing good work, because his name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

The president had long stood firm against demands for the attorney general's resignation, and the timing of Gonzales' decision is interpreted by some as a desire to be seen as leaving on his own terms. To stay longer, on the other hand, might have complicated the task for a lame duck administration in pushing through a successor.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Gonzales had done "the right thing" by stepping down.

"The Justice Department has been virtually nonfunctional and desperately needs new leadership. Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who we are confident will put the rule of law above political considerations," he said.

"Better late than never," said Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

A senior Justice Department official indicated that Solicitor General Paul Clement is a likely temporary replacement for Gonzales.

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff is among those mentioned as possible successors, but a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. The president leaves Washington, D.C., on Sept. 3 for Australia, and Gonzales' replacement might not be named by then, the official said.

Mr. Bush had steadfastly — and, at times, angrily — refused to give in to critics, even from his own GOP, who argued that Gonzales should go. Earlier this month at a news conference, the president grew irritated when asked about accountability in his administration and turned the tables on the Democratic Congress.

"Implicit in your questions is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong," Mr. Bush said testily.

Gonzales is the fourth high-ranking administration official to leave since November 2006.

Donald Rumsfeld, an architect of the Iraq war, resigned as defense secretary one day after the November elections. Paul Wolfowitz agreed to step down in May as president of the World Bank after an ethics inquiry. And top Bush adviser Karl Rove earlier this month announced he was stepping down.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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