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Gonzales' future as AG uncertain as White House considers possible replacements

[JURIST] The US Senate Monday considered the possibility of taking away the authority of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] to unilaterally appoint replacement US Attorneys as comments from the White House regarding his future seemed less than confident and the administration reportedly began considering possible replacements. Nearly 3,000 email messages [documents, PDF] released [JURIST report] Monday by the US Department of Justice [official website] showed that the White House was deeply involved in discussions to fire eight US Attorneys last year. Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett [official profile] said Monday that Gonzales has not offered to resign and reiterated that he still had President Bush's support, but White House spokesman Tony Snow said it was uncertain what the future holds for Gonzales. US Senators Tuesday planned to return to their debate on whether Gonzales should be able to appoint US Attorneys without Senate approval, as Democrats continued to call for his resignation [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Justice Department documents also revealed a ranking system for US Attorneys created by Gonzales' former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson [profile], which was shared with former White House counsel Harriet Miers [official profile; JURIST news archive] in March 2005. One noteworthy ranking was that of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald [Wikipedia profile], who was listed among prosecutors in a middle category as those who had "not distinguished themselves," despite having received the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002. Fitzgerald's mediocre ranking was given at a time when he was in charge of the investigation into the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive] and right after he had indicted former Republican Governor George Ryan [Wikipedia profile] on corruption charges. The Washington Post has more.

Meanwhile Monday, two high-ranking Republicans speaking to McClatchy Newspapers on condition of anonymity confirmed that the White House has begun considering possible replacements for Gonzales. The list reportedly includes Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, White House anti-terrorism adviser Fran Fragos Townsend, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein, federal appeals Judge Laurence Silberman [official profiles], and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson [Wikipedia profile]. The Sacramento Bee has more.

9:14 AM ET - AP is reporting that President Bush has called Gonzales to reaffirm his support for the attorney general.

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