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Gonzales Resigns as Attorney General


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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.