Dems Seek No-Confidence Vote On Gonzales

GENERIC: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice Seal CBS/AP

Senate Democrats said Thursday they will seek a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over accusations that he carried out President Bush's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence.

Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California, who have led the investigation into the conduct of White House officials and Gonzales, said the attorney general has become too weakened to run the department.

"It seems the only person who has confidence in the attorney general is President Bush," Schumer told reporters. "The president long ago should have asked the attorney general to step down."

"I think the time has come for the Senate to express its will," Feinstein said. "We lack confidence in the attorney general."

Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports the resolution and would try to bring it to a floor vote next week. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, too, was expected to sign on.

"I have absolutely no confidence in the attorney general or his leadership," Leahy, D-Vt, said earlier in the day.

Schumer predicted the resolution, which has yet to be finalized, would win support from at least the 60 senators required to beat a filibuster.

Five Republican senators have called outright for Gonzales' resignation, including Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who added his voice Thursday. Several other Republicans have suggested that Gonzales consider stepping down.

One of the latter group, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has left no doubt that he thinks Gonzales should leave. But he told The Associated Press that he wanted to see Schumer's resolution before saying he would vote for it.

The announcement is the latest in a series of blows suffered by Gonzales this week, including new criticism from Republicans and the prediction of one GOP veteran that the investigation into the firings of federal prosecutors would end with the attorney general's resignation.

Specter, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said earlier Thursday that the Justice Department can't properly protect the nation from terrorism or oversee Mr. Bush's no-warrant eavesdropping program with Gonzales at the helm.

"I have a sense that when we finish our investigation, we may have the conclusion of the tenure of the attorney general," Specter said during a committee hearing. "I think when our investigation is concluded, it'll be clear even to the attorney general and the president that we're looking at a dysfunctional department which is vital to the national welfare."

His comment echoed new criticism of Gonzales this week. Former deputy attorney general James Comey testified that Gonzales tried to get his predecessor as attorney general, John Ashcroft, to approve Mr. Bush's eavesdropping program as Ashcroft lay in intensive care.

Asked twice during a news conference Thursday if he personally ordered Gonzales and then-White House chief of staff Andrew Card to Ashcroft's hospital room, Mr. Bush refused to answer.

  • Joel Roberts