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Bush: Gonzales weathered ‘months of unfair treatment’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned Aug. 27 after months of resisting calls to leave office.

Gonzales, the country’s first Hispanic attorney general, did not offer a reason for his decision in brief comments one day after meeting with President Bush to inform him formally of his resignation. Congressional Democrats — and increasingly Republicans -– had criticized Gonzales and questioned his ability to lead the Department of Justice (DOJ), especially based on his roles in and testimony about the firing of nine federal attorneys and a wiretapping program that does not require warrants in the war against terrorism.

As Bush had for months, he continued to defend Gonzales, saying in a statement from Waco, Texas, that the attorney general had received “months of unfair treatment.”

“It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” the president said.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D.-Del., said in a written statement, however, that Gonzales had “lost the confidence of the vast majority of the American people and the Congress. His resignation is long overdue.”

Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general when Gonzales’ resignation takes effect Sept. 17, Bush said.

Among those mentioned as possible nominees to replace Gonzales permanently is Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and a former federal appeals court judge.

Among the initiatives promoted by Gonzales during his two and a half years as attorney general were a new effort to inform Americans of their religious liberties and an increased attempt to combat child pornography and exploitation on the Internet.

Gonzales unveiled his religious liberty initiative in a February speech to the members of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn. He released a DOJ report at that time on the protection of religious freedom under the Bush administration and announced the establishment of a department-wide Religious Freedom Task Force. The DOJ also launched a new website, firstfreedom.gov, to provide information on religious liberty protections in federal law.

In April 2006, Gonzales announced the protection of children from online exploitation would be a priority for the DOJ. Some pro-family advocates have criticized the department under both Ashcroft and Gonzales for adding to the child porn problem by failing to prosecute adult obscenity cases.

Gonzales, 52, was White House counsel during Bush’s first term and was chosen to replace John Ashcroft when the attorney general resigned shortly after the 2004 election. Gonzales served as general counsel, then secretary of state when Bush was governor of Texas in the 1990s. He was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court before joining Bush in the White House after the 2000 election.
Compiled by Tom Strode, with reporting by Erin Roach.

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