U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales accepted responsibility for “mistakes” surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys as revelations the White House initiated the dismissals prompted new calls for his resignation.
In a nine-minute news conference at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters, Gonzales brushed aside suggestions that he step down and blamed his chief of staff for failing to keep him informed of the dismissals. The firings, which Gonzales said were appropriate, have provoked an outcry from Democrats who have likened them to a political purge.
“Like every CEO of a major organization, I am responsible for what happens at the Department of Justice,” Gonzales said. “I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility.”
Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’s chief of staff who was responsible for carrying out the firings, quit last night. The attorney general said today that Sampson failed to keep officials at the department properly informed about the process, leading Gonzales and others at the agency to provide inaccurate information to Congress.
Within minutes of the attorney general’s remarks, critics reacted angrily to Gonzales’s contention he was out of the loop.
“The buck stops with the attorney general and it defies belief that his chief of staff was making all these major decisions without his knowledge,” said Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, in a speech on the Senate floor.