Days before Congress is set to adjourn for its August recess, a group of Democrats on Capitol Hill is seeking an impeachment resolution against embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
On Tuesday, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., sought to introduce the legislation urging the House Judiciary Committee to "investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales, attorney general of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors."
Six other Democrats joined Inslee, a former prosecutor from Washington State. Reps. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., Michael A. Arcuri, D-N.Y., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, Ben Chandler, D-Ky., and Dennis Moore, D-Kan., co-sponsored the legislation.
The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have been investigating the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, and the role Gonzales and senior Justice Department officials played in the dismissals.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, denounced the impeachment move, calling it "a misuse of Congressional power for purely political reasons and a waste of the American public's money and time."
"Democrats have ignored this fundamental principle in their own investigation and have chosen instead to engage in a politically motivated campaign to slander the Justice Department and undermine the credibility of federal law enforcement," Smith continued.
The impeachment resolution is viewed by many on Capitol Hill as symbolic and unlikely to get much traction. But it is the latest display of a lack of support for Gonzales, who has faced a series of challenges this year.
The Democrats' request will move to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration, but it is unclear whether the committee will take up the measure. If it does, the committee would need to vote to send the measure to the full House of Representatives.
A majority vote of the full House would then be required to set up a trial by the Senate. After that trial, a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate would be needed to impeach.
Last week several Senate Democrats called for a perjury investigation on the heels of Gonzales' testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The senators charged that the attorney general lied to Congress about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance and other intelligence programs.
In July 24 testimony Gonzales dismissed previous statements made by former deputy Attorney General James Comey. Comey had asserted that a March 2004 White House briefing with congressional leaders specifically addressed the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allowed the government to use wiretaps without court authorization on U.S. citizens suspected of having links to al Qaeda.
A still classified program, possibly related to TSP, was set to expire the following day. Gonzales testified that the meeting dealt with other surveillance programs but not the TSP.
Gonzales was also questioned during last week's Senate Judiciary hearing about a March 2004 trip to visit then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in the hospital. Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time, traveled with then-White House chief of staff Andy Card to George Washington University hospital to ask Ashcroft to approve a secret intelligence program.