Facing the prospect of increasingly aggressive congressional inquiries into his politicization of the Department of Justice, as well as an energetic House push for his impeachment, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced that he will resign effective September 17.
Gonzales, the former White House counsel who made clear during his two-and-a-half-year tenure as the nation’s top cop that he served President Bush rather than the Constitution, announced his exit strategy just days before the Congress returns from a summer break during which senators and representatives had gotten an earful about the need to get rid of Gonzales.
A proposal by Washington Democrat Jay Inslee, a respected former prosecutor, to have the House Judiciary Committee investigate whether Gonzales should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, attracted 27 cosponsors during the current recess and would have drawn many more with the return of the House in early September.
The Attorney General was ripe for impeachment — or, at the very least, the censure proposed by U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin — because of a rapidly broadening recognition that Gonzales had displayed a blatant disregard for the law since his arrival in Washington in 2001 at the side of his longtime friend and political benefactor George Bush.
“Alberto Gonzales was the ‘Enabler General’ for the imperial Bush presidency,” said People For the American Way President emeritus Ralph G. Neas upon learning of the Attorney General’s decision. “He undermined the Constitution, made a mockery of the rule of law, and turned the Justice Department into an arm of the Bush Administration’s political operation.
Gonzales, whose signature line was a declaration that he served “at the pleasure of the president,” made it his business as White House Counsel and Attorney General to do just that.
As Feingold said this morning, “Attorney General Gonzales’ tenure was marked by unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice, deception of Congress and the American people, and disrespect for the rule of law. He should never have been confirmed and should have resigned long ago. The first loyalty of the next attorney general must be to the law, not the president.”
Gonzales reversed the “first loyalty” equation enunciated by Feingold.
As Counsel from 2001 to 2005, Gonzales blocked requests from the General Accounting Office for information about Enron officials meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. He refused requests from congressional committees for information that the House and Senate had a right — and a need. He made the legal case for torture, despite the fact that the Constitution bars cruel and unusual punishment. He outlined schemes for subverting the judicial system and its rules by making terror suspects eligible for military tribunals. He helped convince Bush to refuse to afford prisoners held at Guantanamo the basic protections afforded prisoner-of-war under treaties the United States had accepted as the law of the land.