Bush Defends Gonzales: Just Some Confusion And Mismanagement Is All....

Update: (second video added) George Bush was questioned about Alberto Gonzales' role in the firing of US Attorneys in Mexico today. He wasn't

bush-mexico.jpg Update: (second video added) George Bush was questioned about Alberto Gonzales' role in the firing of US Attorneys in Mexico today. He wasn't too happy about it. He used the "pleasure of the President" talking point--called it a problem of "mismanagement." I guess he missed reading those pesky emails---here and here and here and here. I can think of a few other things that were mishandled, can't you? Meanwhile---back in America---there's a host of people calling for Alberto's job...

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Bush: The Justice Department recommended a list of U.S. attorneys. I believe the reasons why were entirely appropriate. And yet this issue was mishandled to the point now where you're asking me questions about it in Mexico, which is fine. If I were you, I'd ask the same question. This is an issue that -- let me just say, Al was right, mistakes were made, and he's going to go up to Capitol Hill to correct them.

I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate and senators were talking about the U.S. attorneys. I don't remember specific names being mentioned, but I did say to Al last year -- you're right, last fall -- I said, have you heard complaints about AGs, I have -- I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me -- and he said, I have. But I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on, Roger. The world wants to hear your voice. Q Thank you. The Attorney General acknowledged yesterday that there were mistakes in the firing of prosecutors. What is his future in your cabinet? Do you have confidence in him? And more importantly -- or just as important -- how effective can he be in Congress going forward when he's lost a lot of confidence among Democrats and doesn't have any defenders among Republicans? (transcript below the fold)

PRESIDENT BUSH: I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I talked to him this morning, and we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, making very clear about the facts. And he's right, mistakes were made. And I'm, frankly, not happy about it, because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the Presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys; they're right to do so.


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The Justice Department recommended a list of U.S. attorneys. I believe the reasons why were entirely appropriate. And yet this issue was mishandled to the point now where you're asking me questions about it in Mexico, which is fine. If I were you, I'd ask the same question. This is an issue that -- let me just say, Al was right, mistakes were made, and he's going to go up to Capitol Hill to correct them.

I appreciate the fact that he's taken some action, because anytime anybody goes up to Capitol Hill, they've got to make sure they fully understand the facts, and how they characterize the issue to members of Congress. And the fact that both Republicans and Democrats feel like that there was not straightforward communication troubles me, and it troubles the Attorney General, so he took action. And he needs to continue to take action.

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Q Thank you, Mr. President, President Calder n. On the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, there have been allegations that political motivations were involved. Is political loyalty to your administration an appropriate factor? And when you talked to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last year, what did you say, and what did you direct him to do?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks, Kelly. I've heard those allegations about political decision-making; it's just not true. Secondly, just so you know, I get asked -- I get complaints all the time from members of Congress on a variety of subjects -- this senator, this congressperson so-and-so -- there's occasionally frustration with the executive branch. And they will pull me aside and say, are you aware of this, are you aware of that? And I did receive complaints about U.S. attorneys.

I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate and senators were talking about the U.S. attorneys. I don't remember specific names being mentioned, but I did say to Al last year -- you're right, last fall -- I said, have you heard complaints about AGs, I have -- I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me -- and he said, I have. But I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions.

Q Sir, might he have inferred that you discussed it with him was a need for him to take action?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You're going to have to ask Al that question, but as I say, I discuss with my Cabinet officials complaints I hear. When members of the Senate come up and say to me, I've got a complaint, I think it's entirely appropriate and necessary for me to pass those complaints on. I don't every single time, but people view their moment with the President sometimes as an opportunity to unload their frustrations about how things may be working in their state -- or congresspersons how things may be working in their district. And whether it be the Attorney General or the Secretary of State or other members of my Cabinet, I pass those complaints on at times.

What Al did was -- and what the Justice Department did was appropriate. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. In other words, they're appointed by the President. They can be removed by the President. What was mishandled was the explanation of the cases to the Congress. And Al has got work to do up there. And the thing I appreciate about the Attorney General was, he said publicly he could have handled it better, mistakes were made, and took action. And, obviously, more action needs to be taken. That's what I discussed with him on the phone today

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