Gonzales battles senators over prosecutor firings

By Lara Jakes Jordan The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales struggled yesterday to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors, losing ground as a second senator from his own party joined the calls for his resignation.

Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers challenged the embattled attorney general during an often-bitter five-hour hearing before the Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers confronted Gonzales with documents and sworn testimony they said showed he was more involved in the dismissals than he contended.

“The best way to put this behind us is your resignation,” Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma bluntly told Gonzales, one GOP conservative to another.

Gonzales disagreed, rejecting the idea that his departure would put the controversy to rest.

Even with the White House offering fresh support, it was a long day for the attorney general.

Seventy-one times he fell back on faulty memory, saying he could not recall or remember conversations or events surrounding the firings. During breaks in the hearing, sign-waving protesters rose from the audience calling for him to resign.

Digging in as the day wore on, Gonzales defended his decision last year to oust the U.S. attorneys. Congress is investigating whether the firings were politically motivated, which the Bush administration vehemently denies.

“The notion that there was something that was improper that happened here is simply not supported,” Gonzales said, adding that he would make the same decisions again.