Bush defends Gonzales, rips into critics
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday accused Democrats in Congress who are seeking no-confidence votes on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of engaging in "pure political theater."
Brushing aside concerns from Republicans as well as Democrats about the effectiveness of the chief U.S. law enforcement officer, Bush said: "He has got my confidence. He has done nothing wrong."
Senate Democrats last week announced plans to offer a resolution of no confidence in Gonzales, and two Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced one on Monday. Neither measure is expected to be voted on until after Congress' week-long recess, set to begin on Saturday.
Gonzales is the target of widening congressional investigations into the firing last year of nine of the 93 U.S. attorneys.
Bush and Gonzales maintain that the ousters were justified though mishandled. Critics charge it seems as if Gonzales politicized the Justice Department and the firing of a number of federal prosecutors.
Bush rejected those charges, saying: "I frankly view what's taking place in Washington today as pure political theater."
"And it is the kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates," Bush said at a joint news conference at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Bush was among "very few" who had confidence in Gonzales, and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania on Sunday predicted the attorney general may resign before a no-confidence vote was even taken.
Six of the 49 Republicans in the 100-member, Democratic-led Senate have urged the attorney general to step down. So has Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, a member of the House Republican leadership.
The attorney general has said he intends to remain as long as he believes he can be effective and Bush has confidence in him.
"I stand by Al Gonzales," Bush said.
Bush added that the attorney general's critics "ought to get the job done of passing legislation as opposed to figuring how to be actors on the political theater stage."
Busy legislative schedules will likely prevent Senate or House votes on the resolutions until next month, aides said.
Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of California and Artur Davis of Alabama, both former U.S. prosecutors, introduced their own resolution of no confidence in Gonzales.
"America needs an attorney general who acts in an impartial, judicious and non-partisan fashion, and who places the interests of justice above all else," Schiff said. "I do not feel Mr. Gonzales fits the bill."
(Additional reporting by Toby Zakaria)