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Gonzales drops opposition to tighter controls on US Attorney replacement

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told senators in a private meeting Thursday that the Bush administration would drop its objection to proposed legislation requiring Senate confirmation of all US Attorneys, reversing a rule change approved a year ago in the Patriot Act reauthorization [JURIST report; HR 3199 text, PDF] allowing the Attorney General to replace removed US attorneys with permanent substitutes. The legislation [S 214 text, PDF] sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and pressed in a letter [text] to Gonzales earlier Thursday would permit US district courts to appoint temporary US Attorneys when those spots become vacant. Gonzales also agreed to let senior members of DOJ staff involved in the removals of several US Attorneys appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions. AP has more.

Several former US Attorneys have recently said they were pressured to resign [JURIST report; House Judiciary Committee hearing recorded video] after pursuing politically sensitive cases. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty denied [JURIST report] that the removal of the Attorneys was motivated by political considerations, although the Washington Post later reported that the White House approved of the firings [JURIST report]. The House Judiciary Committee has launched a parallel investigation [press release] of the firings.

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