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THE NATION

Bush still supports Gonzales

March 25, 2007|David G. Savage | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House reaffirmed its support Saturday for embattled Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales after a newly released Justice Department memo showing he joined in a meeting about plans to fire several U.S. attorneys.

Gonzales' participation in the November meeting could indicate he played a larger role in the dismissal process than he has said. Some Democrats have therefore intensified calls that Gonzales resign.

On Saturday, White House Counselor Dan Bartlett said in a statement that President Bush "continues to support the attorney general."

Last week, President Bush brushed aside the calls for Gonzales' departure, saying, "I've got confidence in him."

As controversy has built over whether the firings of eight U.S. attorneys were politically motivated, Gonzales has said he had little involvement in the decision. On March 13, he said publicly that he was "not involved in any discussions about what was going on."

The memo written by Gonzales' since-ousted chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, showed that Gonzales was one of the people at the hourlong session Nov. 27 that focused on "U.S. attorney appointments." The firings were carried out Dec. 7.

Justice Department aides said Friday night that the memo did not contradict Gonzales' previous comments because the meeting dealt only with the "rollout" for the firings. They said the participants did not discuss who would be dismissed.

The department's 93 U.S. attorneys are political appointees; many -- and sometimes all -- are replaced when the White House changes hands. But it is unusual for an established administration to fire a group of prosecutors it has appointed.

david.savage@latimes.com

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