Sen. Leahy frustrated with performance of U.S. Attorney General Gonzales

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says “he has absolutely no confidence” in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s ability to be an effective leader of the Justice Department.

Leahy is co-sponsoring a resolution that expresses the Senate’s lack of confidence in Gonzales’s leadership in the future.

The resolution could be up for a vote next week.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s become increasingly frustrated with Gonzales’s performance as Attorney General.

For several months, Leahy has been concerned about Gonzales’s leadership for a number of reasons including the firing of U.S. Attorneys late last year and an expansion of a domestic eavesdropping program.

Leahy, who’s the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, says the time has come for Congress to send a clear message to the President on this issue:

(Leahy) “He has lost my confidence which has some significance when I’m the chairman of the Judiciary committee. It’s also most embarrassing that the president wants to keep him there, because it’s undermining law enforcement and it’s hurting everybody right down to the investigators on the street. It’s stymied criminal prosecutions and it’s hurting the country, but especially it’s hurting law enforcement.”

(Kinzel) Leahy denies that the no confidence resolution has any partisan overtones:

(Leahy) “I think most of the Republicans I’ve talked to find Attorney General Gonzales as an embarrassment. He’s only had two or three of them in the 49 Republican senators who will publicly defend him and we’ve had far more who’ve publicly condemned him.”

(Kinzel) While a number of senators, including a group of five Republicans, has called for Gonzales to resign, Leahy hasn’t taken this step:

(Leahy) “I’d be glad to see him gone tomorrow, but I’d point out that it’s the president that makes that decision. If the president wants part of his legacy to be that he stood for this kind of subversion of law enforcement — if he stood for this kind of incompetence — if that’s what the president is proud of then he’s going to bear that burden in history.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s optimistic that the no confidence resolution will be supported by at least 60 senators – that number is needed to end a possible filibuster over the resolution when it comes to the Senate floor next week.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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