Several high-ranking Democratic senators have called for the resignation of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the wake of revelations in an official audit that the FBI broke and misused laws in the process of obtaining personal information from telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, and credit bureaus under the terms of the Patriot Act. Prior to Friday's release of the Department of Justice Inspector General's report Gonzales was already under pressure in connection with publicized dismissals of several US Attorneys that may have been politically motivated.
In an interview on CBS' Face the Nation, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday:
the Justice Department is different than any other department. In every other department, the Cabinet--chief Cabinet officer is supposed to follow the president's orders, requests without exception. But the Justice Department has a higher responsibility, rule of law and the Constitution. And Attorney General Gonzalez, in his department, has been even more political than his predecessor, Attorney General Ashcroft. Attorney General Gonzalez is a nice man, but he either doesn't accept or doesn't understand that he is no longer just the president's lawyer, but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution even when the president should not want it to be so. And so this department has been so political that I think, for the sake of the nation, Attorney General Gonzalez should step down....
What we found in--in the Justice Department over and over again is a lack of respect for the rule of law, a lack of respect for balance of powers. There's a view that the executives should be almost without check. And that is so wrong, and that's one of the reasons I think we need at change at the top in the Justice Department.
Speaking on the same program, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), now ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former GOP chairman, acknowledged that "there have been lots of problems," but said that the question of Gonzales' resignation was one "for the president and the attorney general." During a judiciary committee meeting last week, Specter suggested that there could be a new attorney general "sooner rather than later."
Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said:
I think Gonzales has lost the confidence of the vast majority of the American people. I think it goes all the way back to the torture memos, when we gave him the benefit of the doubt, straight through to the firing of these U.S. attorneys and until recently insisting that they could, in fact, under a law -- a little-known provision in the law -- allow them to replace attorneys general.
I think it's an abuse of power. And I think he's lost the confidence of the American people. I think he's lost the confidence of many in the United States Congress. And, obviously, it it's president's judgment to say whether he should stay or not, but I think he's lost the confidence of the Congress.
Also speaking on Late Edition, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the Justice Department's handling of the US Attorneys firings was "clumsy," but said that he didn't believe Gonzales would resign over the matter.