March 31, 2007 / 11:11 PM / 13 years ago

Bush backs Gonzales, says no evidence of wrongdoing

CAMP DAVID, Maryland (Reuters) - President George W. Bush issued fresh support for embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Saturday, saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

U.S. President George W. Bush answers a question during a joint news conference with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (not pictured) at Camp David in Maryland March 31, 2007. Bush issued fresh support for embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Saturday, saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the firings of eight federal prosecutors. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Bush also said Gonzales, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, was providing documents to Congress and would “tell the truth” when he testifies about the matter before the Senate Judiciary Committee in April.

“Attorney General Al Gonzales is an honorable and honest man and he has my full confidence,” Bush said.

“I will remind you there is no credible evidence that there has been any wrongdoing,” he added.

Congressional Democrats say the firings in December of the eight U.S. attorneys — among the more than 90 presidentially appointed prosecutors who head Justice Department offices in federal court districts across the country — may have been politically motivated.

The controversy has ignited a firestorm in Congress and has prompted calls among a number of Democrats and Republicans for Gonzales to resign.

Critics accuse the Bush administration of dismissing the officials to make room for its allies or because it felt some were too tough on Republicans and too easy on Democrats.

The Bush administration contends the dismissals were justified, mainly on performance grounds or policy differences. But newly disclosed documents also show loyalty was a factor.

Gonzales said on Friday in Boston he did not recall being involved in talks on dismissing individual prosecutors, disputing testimony by his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, to Congress a day earlier.

Sampson also said the decisions to fire the prosecutors “were properly made, but poorly explained.” He rejected suggestions prosecutors were dismissed to gain political advantage in some investigations.

Bush said the federal prosecutors served at the discretion of the president and served their full four-year terms.

“I appreciate their service. I’m sorry that these hearings and all this stuff have besmirched their reputations. It’s certainly not the intent of anybody in this administration,” he said.

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