CHICAGO – A scheduled 15-minute press conference with Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales was quickly cut short in Chicago on Tuesday, with Gonzales leaving the room after just three questions about the dismissal of a group of U.S. attorneys.
Gonzales was at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to talk about a national campaign to promote the safety of children on the Internet. Instead, he again found himself defending his actions in the firings, which some say were politically motivated.
The attorney general’s handling of the aftermath has resulted in demands that he lose his job.
He said wants his office to work to “reassure the American people that nothing improper happened here,” and insisted he has been forthcoming.
“I look forward to working with Congress. I believe in keeping accountability,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said he is taking responsibility for the firings of eight prosecutors. He has drawn criticism in recent days because, after he initially said he was “not involved in any discussions about what was going on,” it was revealed in documents last week that he approved the firings at an hourlong meeting in November, two weeks before seven of the prosecutors were dismissed.
“I directed the release of 3,000 pages of documents (on the matter),” Gonzales said. “I directed that DOJ employees go up and present testimony.”
Gonzales was then asked how that push for cooperation squares with the decision by his senior counselor Monday not to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Monica Goodling invoked her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination at the advice of her attorneys.
“I’m not going to comment on the decision by an employee of the department to exercise her constitutional rights,” Gonzales said.