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Ashcroft resigns as attorney general; Gonzales succeeds

WASHINGTON (BP)–The resignation of Attorney General John Ashcroft was announced Nov. 9, a week after President Bush’s re-election.

Achcroft, a favorite of evangelical Christians throughout much of his public service, submitted his resignation to Bush, citing the “demands of justice” in his letter to the president, according to The Washington Post. The former U.S. senator underwent gall bladder surgery earlier this year.

Ashcroft, 62, was one of the most controversial figures in the administration. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Ashcroft had a leading role in shaping U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and protect the country. But some of his initiatives drew sharp criticism from civil liberties organizations, which attacked his policies as infringements upon Americans’ freedoms.

White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales will be Ashcroft’s successor, according to various media reports Nov. 10. Bush’s selection of Gonzales, 49, probably will not be welcomed by at least some pro-life organizations. Gonzales, named to the Texas Supreme Court by Bush in 1999, voted with the majority in a decision criticized by abortion opponents on a state law requiring parental notification for minors.

In receiving Ashcroft’s resignation, Bush said the attorney general had “worked tirelessly to help make our country safer.”

“I applaud his efforts to prevent crime, vigorously enforce our civil rights laws, crack down on corporate wrongdoing, protect the rights of victims and those with disabilities, reduce crimes committed with guns and stop human trafficking,” Bush said in a written statement. “I appreciate his work to fight Internet pornography.”

Some pro-family organizations, however, criticized the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute obscenity more aggressively, though they acknowledged Ashcroft’s effort was better than that of his predecessor, Janet Reno.

Pro-lifers did not uniformly applaud Ashcroft’s decisions as attorney general, but they commended his department for its strong defense of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Three federal judges have ruled against the 2003 law, which bars a grisly procedure on a nearly totally delivered unborn child, but the DOJ has announced it will appeal. It also was revealed Nov. 9 the department has urged the Supreme Court to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling blocking a ban on the use of federally regulated drugs to aid patients in committing suicide in Oregon.

Ashcroft, whose church affiliation has been with the Assemblies of God, served one term in the Senate from Missouri before his defeat in 2000. He was a leading social conservative during his six years in the Senate.

Before his election to the Senate, Ashcroft served as governor of Missouri from 1985-93 and was the state’s attorney general the previous eight years.

Throughout many of his years as a public official, Ashcroft spoke often, and sometimes sang, at various Christian meetings.

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