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US Lawmakers Say New Attorney General Must Stay Out of Politics


Two leading members of the U.S. Senate are calling on President Bush to name a new Attorney General who will restore a sense of integrity to the beleaguered Justice Department. The current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned last week, ending a controversial 2.5-year run as the chief U.S. law enforcement officer. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, said he is pleased that the Department of Justice's inspector general is looking into whether outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave false testimony to Congress while under oath.

"I've asked for an independent investigation of what Mr. Gonzales said when he gave sworn testimony that I did not find credible," said Senator Leahy. "And now, for the first time in history, the inspector general in the Department of Justice is doing that investigation."

The inspector general is examining whether Gonzales told the truth during appearances before Congress on a number of issues, including last year's dismissals of eight federal prosecutors and the administration's warrantless surveillance program.

Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation last week, effective September 17. The White House says President Bush is expected to nominate a successor sometime shortly after he returns from a trip to Australia September 9.

Leahy urged President Bush to choose a replacement who is seen as, in his words, a "uniter, not a divider."

He appeared on Fox News Sunday, along with the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter, who called on the president to name a candidate dedicated to public service.

"Somebody who understands the difference between being the president's lawyer and being the chief law enforcement officer for the United States, who has a duty to the American people, in addition to being a cabinet officer," said Senator Specter. "I think he ought to select somebody who will give him some candid, frank, forceful advice on what's constitutional."

Specter blamed Gonzales for allowing the president to make what he said were "significant mistakes on legal issues."

"I think the President needed some advice early on on the terrorist surveillance system," he said. "He finally put it under the court, but there's no doubt that the current Attorney General has only told the president what he wants to hear."

Leahy said the confirmation process of the new attorney general could be held up if the the White House does not cooperate with the inspector general.

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