[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] Thursday rejected a call for his resignation made by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the US Attorney firing scandal [JURIST news archive]. Gonzales faced hours of tough questioning from senators during the hearing, but maintained that "nothing improper occurred." In his prepared remarks [text; written statement, PDF], he expressed regret at how the eight fired prosecutors were treated and admitted to making "misstatements" in previous testimony. He further said:
US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. There is nothing improper in making a change for poor management, policy differences, or questionable judgment, or simply to have another qualified individual serve. I think we agree on that. I think we also agree on what would be improper. It would be improper to remove a US Attorney to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain. I did not do that. I would never do that. Nor do I believe that anyone else in the Department advocated the removal of a US Attorney for such a purpose.
In his own remarks [text], Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) nonetheless cautioned against turning the Department of Justice into "another political arm of the White House":
The dismissed US Attorneys have testified under oath that they believe political influence resulted in their being replaced. If they are right, the mixing of partisan political goals into federal law enforcement is highly improper…
If nothing improper was done, people need to stop hiding the facts and need to tell the truth, the whole truth. If the White House did nothing wrong, then show us. Show us the documents and provide us with the sworn testimony of what was done – why, and by whom. If there is nothing to hide, then the White House should quit hiding it.
Kyle Sampson [official profile], Gonzales' former chief of staff who has since resigned [DOJ press release], told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that the prosecutors were fired for political reasons [JURIST report] rather than for poor performance as the Justice Department has claimed [JURIST report]. Gonzales has defended [JURIST report] his role in the firings, admitting that there has been some confusion but saying that his involvement in the matter was limited to signing off on recommendations made by Sampson. AP has more.