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After Gonzales, What's Next for the Justice Department?
August 28, 2007
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales makes a brief statement announcing his resignation. Image: Diego M. Radzinschi / Legal Times
In the wake of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation announcement Monday -- which ended a months-long standoff with Congress -- some observers used the departure news as an opening to urge changes for the Department of Justice. Others defended Gonzales and his tenure. And one retired senior Justice official weighed in on Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, often mentioned as a successor to Gonzales, saying Chertoff has "a lot of baggage" and is "not well-liked" within the department.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- the nation's troubled top law enforcement officer -- ended speculation Monday and resigned. For much of the past eight months, he withstood a barrage of criticism that he had politicized the Department of Justice and misled Congress while giving testimony about the firings of U.S. Attorneys. Gonzales' exit is the latest in a string of high-level resignations at the department, which have left Main Justice largely devoid of leadership.
Alberto Gonzales was a case study in cronyism -- a nice guy and presidential pal who became attorney general on the strength of those two credentials, writes Ron Fournier. In the end, Gonzales' greatest achievement may be that he produced a rare note of unanimity among Republicans and Democrats in Washington: They agree his tenure was an unmitigated failure. Will his resignation cause Washington politicians to swear off cronyism? And if so, how long will that last?
From senators to presidential candidates to some of the fired U.S. Attorneys themselves, many notables provided notable quotes Monday regarding the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Perhaps the most pithy reaction? Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards: "Better late than never."
Solicitor General Paul Clement, who will serve as interim attorney general, is a meticulous, affable conservative with friends across the political spectrum. Clement has worked for stalwarts of the right in American politics and law. Yet, liberal Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has been among Clement's biggest boosters, principally because of Clement's Supreme Court defense of the landmark campaign finance law that Feingold co-authored.