Bush defends Gonzales, while GOP congressman calls for resignation

Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON - President Bush again came to Alberto Gonzales' defense Saturday, saying the attorney general is "honorable and honest'' and has his full support.

During a joint press conference with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Camp David presidential retreat, Bush defended Gonzales against charges he has not been forthcoming enough about his role in the firing of federal prosecutors.

"He is providing documents for Congress to find the truth. He will testify in front of Congress. And he will tell the truth,'' the president said.

A Republican congressman on Saturday urged Gonzales to resign, citing what he said were Gonzales' contradictory statements about his role in the firing of eight federal prosecutors.

"I trusted him before, but I can't now,'' said five-term Rep. Lee Terry, whose district includes metropolitan Omaha.

Gonzales' credibility took a blow this past week during testimony by his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sampson, who resigned March 12, said the attorney general was regularly briefed about plans to fire the prosecutors and was involved with discussions about "this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign.''

Lawmakers impatient to hear Gonzales' side of the story said the embattled attorney general needed to explain himself quickly or risk more damage to his department. Gonzales is to testify April 17 on Capitol Hill.

"My views were that this was Democrat posturing and a witch hunt,'' Terry said. "My trust in him in that position has taken a hit because of these contradictory statements by him.''

Terry's change of heart came on the first day of a two-week break for House members and Republicans hoped to avoid spending much of that time on the defensive about Gonzales.

Gonzales on Friday sought to explain weeks of inconsistencies about how closely involved he had been in decisions to dismiss the U.S. attorneys. He said he had been aware his staff was drawing up plans for the firings but did not recall taking part in discussions over which people would actually be told to go.

"I believe in truth and accountability, and every step that I've taken is consistent with that principle,'' Gonzales said in Boston.

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