Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has again called for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors.
Members of the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees want to question Gonzales, President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and other administration officials about their role in the firings.
Schumer says it appears that high-level people in the White House were deeply involved in the decision last December to dismiss federal prosecutors, some of whom had been criticized by Republican lawmakers. The dismissals have sparked a political firestorm, with Democrats saying the U.S. district attorneys were fired for political reasons.
In the first fallout from the firings, the chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales, Kyle Sampson, has resigned. He was one of the senior officials congressional committees wanted to question.
One of the fired U.S. district attorneys, David Iglesias of New Mexico, says he received calls from two Republican lawmakers before last year's mid-term elections, asking if a corruption investigation involving Democrats would yield indictments before the election. He says he felt "pressured" by the calls.
Another U.S. attorney fired last year in Arkansas was replaced by a former aide to Karl Rove.
A White House spokeswoman has defended the firings, saying they were perfectly appropriate and within the administration's discretion.
U.S. attorneys are typically appointed to four-year terms by the president on the recommendation of state political leaders and they serve at the pleasure of the president.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said Gonzales first told lawmakers on the Judiciary committee that the U.S. attorneys were dismissed for performance reasons. When she investigated, she found that their performance ratings were in fact good.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.