Chertoff Rumors Pick up Steam

Carpet Bag Report
August 27, 2007

Rumors about Michael Chertoff replacing Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General are looking increasingly reliable.

This morning, CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux reported that “very senior level sources” inside the administration are telling her that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff will replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Additionally, these sources say Chertoff will be replaced at Homeland Security by Clay Johnson III, the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

I watched the TP clip and it’s worth noting that CNN’s Malveaux initially quoted “several senior administration officials,” and then clarified to say “very senior.” For reporters covering the White House, that’s a designation limited to a small circle of top people in the West Wing.

It could be a trial balloon, of course, but to dish to CNN with this level of specificity suggests this accurately reflects the White House’s thinking, at least for now.

Other Attorney General-related news this hour:

* Gonzales delivered a very brief public statement at 10:30. He did not respond to questions, and did not explain why he is resigning. It was, perhaps, the most unusual public resignation announcement I’ve ever seen.

* Bush is now scheduled to comment on Gonzales’ resignation at 11:50. If Gonzales’ appearance was any indication, the president won’t have much to say, either.

* Reporters caught wind of Gonzales’ pending resignation yesterday, and an NYT reporter asked the departing AG about the rumors 24 hours ago. Gonzales said the rumors were false. It’s hardly the most striking lie he’s told lately, but it seems to have annoyed quite a few reporters.

* Clay Johnson, the apparent frontrunner to replace Chertoff (who is the apparent frontrunner to replace Gonzales), may have a tough confirmation fight of his own. He has no experience in security policy, immigration, disaster response, transportation, or anything else the DHS does. Johnson’s chief qualification seems to be that he’s a life-long buddy of the president.

* House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.): “It is a sad day when the Attorney General of the United States resigns amid a cloud of suspicion that the system of justice has been manipulated for political purposes. More than accountability, we need answers. Unfortunately, the continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth. If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts. The responsibility to uncover these facts is still on the Congress, and the Judiciary Committee in particular.”

* From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): “Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House.”

* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “The resignation of Attorney General Gonzales is long overdue. The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system. The President must now restore credibility to the office of the Attorney General. Given the serious loss of public trust and the disarray at the Department of Justice, the American people must have absolute confidence in the integrity of the next Attorney General as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as defender of our constitution independent of political influence. The President’s nominee must have the character and stature to command that confidence.”

* Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has also been rumored to be a possible Gonzales replacement, said, “This will not bring peace. This will bring more chaos.”

* Joke #1: Gonzales resigned to “spend more time with his defense lawyer.”

* Joke #2: “Gonzales reportedly concluded that his tenure had become too much of a distraction from the administration’s other lawbreaking.”

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