Gonzales Survival Prospects Called 'Slim to None'

February 9, 2009, 10:10 AM

March 17, 2007 — -- Some political odds makers are betting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will not make it through the week with the same job title.

"The chances of the attorney general surviving this, I think, are slim to none -- and slim just left the building," said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Gonzales faces what could be the most challenging week of his career. On Monday, the Department of Justice is expected to release some 200 pages of potentially damaging e-mails to address accusations he fired eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons on behalf of a White House that felt they were not -- in the words of Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson -- "loyal Bushies."

Sampson lost his job earlier this month. Now it is Gonzales' own job that's on the line.

On Thursday, he is scheduled to testify before a skeptical House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice, as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets to decide whether to subpoena several White House officials involved in the firings, including political advisor Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

A Newsweek poll released today found that just one in three Americans believes he should stay on the job. Most -- 58 percent -- believe the firings were politically motivated.

No one has accused the attorney general of breaking the law, but Democrats, and some Republicans, say he abused his position.

This week, Gonzales took responsibility.

"I acknowledge that mistakes were made here,'' he said. "I am responsible for what happens at the Department of Justice."

But he insisted he was out of the loop.

"I am not aware of every bit of information that passes through the halls of the Department of Justice," he added.

Administration officials say he has no plans to resign, and the president has no plan to fire him.

"I do have confidence in Attorney General Gonzales," he said earlier this week.

That's not necessarily a guarantee of job security.

Bush made a similar statement about then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Nov. 1, telling a group of wire service reporters that Rumsfeld was doing a "fantastic job." When asked if he planned to keep Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney on his staff through the end of his term, Bush said, "Yes."

"Once you get Republican senators calling for your resignation," Ornstein said, "no matter how strongly the president is behind you, the pressure is building to the point where something has to happen to reduce it, and that means he will go."

With a couple Republicans -- Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire -- already joining Democrats' calls for the attorney general's ouster, the pressure for Gonzales to resign is likely to increase. His fate could rest on whether the White House can keep other Republicans from joining them.

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