Attorney General Gonzales Resigns

"It is a shame, and it is the Justice Department, the American people and the dedicated professionals of our law enforcement community who have suffered most from it," Leahy's statement continued.

The chairman also said that the department has become a "political arm of the White House."

Leahy's counterpart in the House of Representatives, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., also chimed in, saying that Congress is still awaiting answers from the Justice Department and the White House regarding the federal prosecutor firings.

"More than accountability, we need answers," Conyers' statement said. "Unfortunately, the continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth. If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts."

On the other end of the political spectrum, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Gonzales' successes at the department, saying in a statement, "I hope that history will remember Attorney General Gonzales for his honorable service to his country, rather than for the absurd political theater to which some critics have subjected him."

Fired U.S. Attorneys

Tension between Gonzales and Congress ratcheted up this spring after details began emerging about last year's federal prosecutor firings. Gonzales' chief of staff and the department's White House liaison, who later admitted to having little prosecutorial experience themselves, were heavily involved in constructing the list of prosecutors to dismiss.

Members of Congress questioned the motives behind the firings, alleging that they were politically motivated. Both of the officials later stepped down.

The attorney firings, which seemed to kick off a campaign seeking the attorney general's resignation, took a back seat to criticism over the Terrorist Surveillance Program and challenges to his sworn statements before Congress.

Terrorist Surveillance Program

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 24, the attorney general dismissed then-Acting Attorney General James Comey's statement that a March 10, 2004, White House briefing with congressional leaders specifically addressed the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allowed the government to use wiretaps without court authorization. A still-classified program, possibly related to TSP, was set to expire the next day.

Shortly after that briefing Gonzales, serving at the time as White House counsel, went to the hospital with then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, apparently to ask then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize the program, despite having ceded his powers to Comey while he recovered from surgery in the hospital's intensive care unit.

In May of this year, Comey recounted the run-in during dramatic testimony to Congress, saying he raced to the hospital to head off Gonzales and Card.

"I was angry," Comey said. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general."

FBI Director Backs Comey

In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee July 26, FBI director Robert Mueller backed Comey's account.

In his first public comments about the now-infamous visit, Mueller confirmed to the panel that he and Comey scrambled to post agents outside Ashcroft's hospital room.

Mueller, in his usual crisp, blunt style, said, "I don't dispute what Mr. Comey said."

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