The end of the day

Specter says Gonzales' fate is in Bush's hands. Schumer calls on the attorney general to resign.

Published April 19, 2007 8:31PM (EDT)

Although Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has had harsh words for Alberto Gonzales today, he says he's not going to call for him to resign. Outside the hearing room a few minutes ago, Specter said that Gonzales' credibility has been "impaired" and that he intends to "communicate" his concerns to George W. Bush. But Salon's Michael Scherer, who has been reporting from the hearing all day, tells us that Specter made it clear that his "communication" wouldn't include a call for Gonzales to resign. "I think that is a decision that belongs to the president," Specter said. "I am studiously not going to make a recommendation."

Back in the hearing room, Specter said that Gonzales and Bush must decide for themselves whether the attorney general should keep his job. Specter told Gonzales that while he believes he has been as "forthcoming as you could be," his credibility has been hurt by the "panorama of responses you have made" to questions about last year's prosecutor purge.

Predictably, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer offered a markedly less charitable assessment. "You've answered 'I don't know' or 'I can't recall' to close to a hundred questions, you're not familiar with the workings of much of your department, and we still don't have convincing explanations of the who, what and why of the firings," Schumer said. "I urge you to reexamine your performance and, for the good of the department and the good of country, step down."

Gonzales said those who are making charges against him have the "burden of proof as to whether something improper happened here." Schumer disagreed, saying that the standard for deciding whether someone should be the attorney general of the United States ought to be higher than the standard for deciding whether someone is guilty of a crime.

After everyone else had spoken, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy told Gonzales that he can't recall any time that he has ever been "more concerned for the system of criminal justice of this country."

As Gonzales and the senators filed out of the hearing room, protesters sang: "Na na na na, na na na na, Gon-za-les, goodbye." Afterward, Schumer told reporters that the fact that Gonzales couldn't say who put names on the list of prosecutors to be fired suggests that the White House may have had a bigger role than is known so far.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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