AG Gonzales Resigns; Chertoff Likely Replacement
Alberto Gonzales is resigning. This is a breaking story; details to follow.
UPDATE: Still nothing much to add. The New York Times broke the story, but reports only that
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards has issued a statement pointing out that he called for Gonzales' resignation on March 13, 2007, and saying "Better late than never."
2nd UPDATE: CNN is reporting that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be nominated to replace Gonzales. Chertoff has background as Assistant U.S. Attorney, Assistant Attorney General, and U.S. Court of Appeals judge. He also clerked for Supreme Court justice William Brennan.
3rd UPDATE: The news conference is set for 10:30 a.m. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who led the charge against Gonzales, seemed sort of noncommittal about Chertoff on CNN just now, neither praising nor condemning him outright.
4th UPDATE: Solicitor General Paul Clement is being named as a likely temporary replacement. Other names I've heard for a permanent replacement are former Sen. John Danforth, former Solicitor General Ted Olsen, and corporate attorney and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.
Chertoff has competency issues because of the bungling of Hurricane Katrina during his watch (FEMA is part of Homeland Security). I don't think that would be enough to prevent his confirmation outright, but if the Bush administration wants a really quick and smooth confirmation process and Democratic senators object to Chertoff on this basis, it might prompt the White House to name someone else.
5th UPDATE: Although the traditional media has jumped on Chertoff as the virtually certain nominee, I'm not so sure just yet. One thing I will say is that this is an interesting test as to how Bush will handle the last part of his presidency. If he nominates Chertoff or anyone else closely associated with his administration, it's a sign that he will continue his combative style even as a lame duck. If he goes beyond his inner circle and nominates someone who was prominent before Bush took office, like Ted Olsen, that's a sign that he will be more cooperative with moderate elements within his own party and with Congress in general.
The GOP presidential candidates presumably don't want the White House to pick fights and create controversies, and generally draw attention to the unpopular current GOP president, during the next year while they are trying to sell themselves to the public as representing a new direction for the country. However, stubbornness and devotion to ideology have been the hallmarks of this administration, so it would represent a huge change of tone for the White House to seek a consensus nomination for AG. We'll just have to wait and see.
6th UPDATE: Cleverest reaction to Gonzale's resignation yet, from Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL):
Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things.7th UPDATE: Bear in mind that the U.S. attorney
And all the while, Gonzales' Justice Department was crumbling from within, devastated by a cynical strategy of minimizing the role of career nonpartisan professionals within the Department in favor of young ideologues, mediocre attorneys and just plain party hacks. The U.S. Attorney scandal is just the most publicized example of this daring effort to make the Justice Department a house organ for the Bush administration. Less visible career attorneys were pushed out at the expense of rank partisans willing to toe the company line. Even the internship programs for law students were schooled to favor "right" thinking attorneys at the expense of others. One law school, founded by Pat Robertson and rated among the worst in the nation, became a feeder school for the Department. And it was all part of a plan.