WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, under congressional pressure to quit over the firing of nine U.S. prosecutors, vowed on Monday to stay and fix problems with the Justice Department.
In testimony prepared for a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Gonzales acknowledged the Justice Department has been shaken by accusations that partisan politics played a role in hiring practices and the administration of justice.
“There are two options available in light of these allegations,” Gonzales said. “I could walk away or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems.”
“Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems.”
Gonzales, who with the support of President George W. Bush has withstood bipartisan calls to resign, was certain to be hammered with questions at Tuesday’s hearing by Democrats and some fellow Republicans.
Many questions are expected to deal with his firing last year of nine of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys. Gonzales contends the dismissals were justified but mishandled.
Others are likely to challenge Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program and inquire about an ongoing Justice Department probe into an admission by a former Gonzales aide that she considered the politics of career personnel when hiring them.
“There are probably only two people on Earth who think the attorney general ought to stay: Alberto Gonzales and President Bush,” Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in response to Gonzales’ prepared testimony.
“As long as he’s in charge, the Justice Department, the rule of law and America will suffer.”