Senate Democrats

Reid: Attorney General Gonzalez Must Resign

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the following remarks today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

I rise in support of S.J. Res. 14, a resolution expressing the Sense of the Senate that Attorney General Gonzales has lost the confidence of Congress and the American people.  The Senate has a responsibility to express its displeasure with a Cabinet officer who has grossly mismanaged his responsibilities and failed the American people.  That is the one and only mechanism we have – short of impeachment – to address malfeasance by a high-ranking federal official.

Along with the Departments of Defense and State, the Department of Justice is one of the most important cabinet agencies.  The Attorney General is responsible for enforcing federal law, protecting civil rights, and most importantly, ensuring fidelity to the Constitution. 

In my early days as a lawyer and public official in Nevada during the 1960s and early ‘70s, I saw those critical roles play out first hand.  In those days, the major civil rights battle in Las Vegas was over integrating the Strip.  Thousands of people – both black and white – protested that discrimination.  But it was the intervention of the Justice Department that finally forced it to end. 

The Justice Department I remember was blind to politics.  It wasn’t a Democratic Department or a Republican Department.  Its lawyers were fighting for the most American ideal: the right of all Americans to participate in our democracy.

What a proud history that is.  What a source of pride for our country.  But today – under this President – and under this Attorney General – DOJ has lost its way.  Now the Justice Department is just another arm of the Bush political machine, where partisanship earns patronage, yet independence earns contempt.  Today’s Justice Department is dysfunctional.  Its credibility is shredded. And morale is at an all-time low. 

And the blame for that tragic deterioration lies squarely on the shoulders of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  Over the last six months, Congressional oversight has revealed the many ways that crass political calculations have pervaded the personnel and prosecutorial decisions of the Bush/Gonzales Justice Department.  The careers of many good lawyers have been destroyed.

One of those good lawyers is Daniel Bogden.  Dan Bogden is a career prosecutor.  He worked his way up as a line prosecutor in Washoe County and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  When my Republican friend and colleague Senator Ensign recommended him to be the U.S. Attorney for Nevada, he reached a well-deserved pinnacle of his career.  He worked hard as our U.S. Attorney to protect Nevadans from crime and drugs and earned wide respect from law enforcement agencies throughout the state.  But Dan Bogden was fired.  To this day, no satisfactory explanation has been provided to Bogden or to the people of Nevada. 

In light of evidence that other U.S. Attorneys were fired at the same time because they failed to pursue partisan Republican cases, there is every reason to believe that Dan Bogden suffered the same fate: he was fired for administering justice in Nevada in an even-handed, non-political way.  In other words, he got fired for doing his job exactly the way it’s supposed to be done.

When he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Gonzales could not even say why Bogden was included on the list of those to be fired.  His lack of memory was astounding.  He could not recall basic facts, even meetings with the President. 

Writing in the New York Times, Professor Frank Bowman, a former federal prosecutor himself, said, “The truth is almost surely that Mr. Gonzales’s forgetfulness is feigned — a calculated ploy to block legitimate Congressional inquiry into questionable decisions made by the Department of Justice, White House officials and, quite possibly, the president himself.”

If Alberto Gonzales was not truthful with Congress, he deserves to be fired.  On the other hand, if the Attorney General was really not involved in the decision to fire Dan Bogden and others, he is guilty of gross negligence.  He turned over the awesome power of his office to a handful of young, inexperienced ideologues, and allowed them to carry out a political campaign from the once-hallowed halls of the Justice Department.

But the Attorney General’s misdeeds extend well beyond politically-driven personnel decisions.  As White House Counsel, he presided over the development of anti-terror tactics that have undermined the rule of law and made Americans less safe.  And we now know from former Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey that the Attorney General tried to take advantage of John Ashcroft’s serious illness to obtain Justice Department approval for an illegal surveillance program. 

Time and time again, Alberto Gonzales has proven beyond a doubt his incompetence, misjudgment and lack of independence.  He is profoundly unworthy to hold one of the highest and most important offices in the land.  I urge my colleagues to support this resolution reflecting the facts before us.  I urge Attorney General Gonzales to resign his office to allow America the chance to recover from his catastrophic tenure.  If he does not, I urge President Bush to finally remove him.