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Next attorney general nominee could face a nasty hearing from skeptical Democrats

Next attorney general nominee could face a nasty hearing from skeptical Democrats

The resignation under fire of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could lead to a new standoff between President George W. Bush and the Democratic-led Congress over his successor.
Gonzales, Bush's longtime friend and protege, was the latest in a series of top Bush advisers to leave the administration since voters irate over the Iraq war gave opposition Democrats control of both chambers of Congress in November's elections.
The first was Donald H. Rumsfeld, the chief strategist of the unpopular Iraq war, whom Bush pushed out as defense secretary the day after the elections. Just this month, Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, resigned.
Their departure, and Gonzales', leaves Bush with few advisers who share long personal or political ties to Bush as he deals with the Democratic Congress.
Gonzales announced his resignation on Monday, effective Sept. 17. He had been widely criticized first as Bush's top White House lawyer, then as attorney general, for providing legal justifications for tactics used in Bush's campaign against terrorists, including harsh interrogation techniques and warrantless wiretapping.
His final controversy, however, which brought stinging criticism and demands for his resignation from lawmakers of both parties, involved his department's botched handling of the firing of federal prosecutors.
Despite unrest among Republicans, both public and private, Bush and other top members of his party described the pressure that forced Gonzales' decision as a Democratic vendetta.
In such a charged atmosphere, replacing Gonzales could become a political brouhaha.
"Selecting a successor to Gonzales will be a challenge because the Senate is unlikely to confirm anyone as aggressive as Gonzales in the defense of executive power and the practice of secrecy," said Peter Shane, professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
The White House is unlikely to let Congress dictate who gets the job, however.
Someone like former Sen. Jack Danforth of Missouri, for example, "might be too liberal for the base," said Hunter College political scientist Kenneth Sherrill, referring to Republican conservatives who comprise Bush's core supporters.
A more intriguing pick, Sherrill said, would be Sen. Joe Lieberman, the hawkish Connecticut independent Democrat, whose nomination would allow his state's Republican governor to appoint his replacement and wrest control of the Senate from Democrats to a tie between the two parties.
For now, Solicitor General Paul Clement will head the Justice Department until a replacement is found. Among the possible successors whose names were floated Monday:
_Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a former assistant attorney general and federal judge who commands the legal expertise that Gonzales lacked. However, Chertoff faced intense criticism and calls for his own resignation after Homeland Security's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
_Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee for a decade before stepping down in 2005. In April, Hatch said "it would be really tough for me to get confirmed," but "I would serve this country in any way I could."
_Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a conservative former U.S. attorney, congressman, Drug Enforcement Administration chief and border security director at the Homeland Security Department. Hutchinson, whom an aide said was on his way to Washington on Monday afternoon, could run afoul of Democrats for his role in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.


Updated : 2021-03-05 15:28 GMT+08:00