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Bush Defends Gonzalez Ahead of Congressional No-Confidence Vote

President Bush is accusing Democrats in Congress of playing politics as they prepare to take a no-confidence vote this week on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, controversy involving Gonzalez and his handling of the dismissals of eight U.S. prosecutors, will also be in the spotlight when one of his former aides testifies before a House committee.

President Bush Monday reiterated his support for his embattled attorney general, who has admitted to mishandling the process in which the U.S. attorneys were dismissed, while denying any political motives were behind it.

"He has got my confidence," said President Bush. "He has done nothing wrong. There's been enormous amount of attention on him. That there's been no wrongdoing on his part. He has testified in front of Congress. And I, frankly, view what's taking place in Washington today as pure political theater."

The president's passion in defending Gonzalez indicates that if the attorney general is to leave, it won't be the result of any decision from the White House.

But while the president believes political motivations are behind the move by Senate Democrats to schedule an unusual no-confidence vote on the attorney general, Gonzalez has lost the backing of five key Senate Republicans.

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation last Sunday, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Gonzalez might choose to resign before the no-confidence debate.

Designed to escalate pressure on Gonzalez to step down voluntarily, the effort by Senate Democrats will have some help from the House, where Democrats plan to bring up their own no-confidence resolution.

Democrats Adam Schiff and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz appeared at a news conference late Monday to preview that effort.

SCHIFF: "We take this step reluctantly, but we take it with the conviction that something is broken at the Department of Justice and Mr. Gonzalez is not the man to fix it.

SCHULTZ: This is not about partisan politics. This is about an individual who has lost the confidence of the Congress and the American people and needs to step aside."

If approved, both Senate and House measures, would be non-binding.

Adding to pressure on Gonzalez, Monica Goodling, the former Department of Justice liaison to the White House and a key figure in the U.S. attorneys matter, comes to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

One of four key justice department officials to resign so far in connection with the controversy, Goodling initially declined to testify, citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

But lawmakers on the judiciary committee later voted to give her limited immunity in exchange for her appearance this Wednesday.

Testifying before the panel earlier this month, Attorney General Gonzalez apologized, as he did in an earlier Senate hearing, that the matter had become an unfortunate and undignified public spectacle.

However, he reiterated the position he has taken since the controversy began.

"It would be improper to remove a U.S. attorney to interfere with, or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain," said Gonzales. "I did not do that. I would never do that."

John Conyers, the Democratic panel chairman, had this observation as part of his opening remarks.

"One asks whether the administration is trying to cover up two simple truths: who created the list [of attorneys] and why," said John Conyers.

Adding to the pressure on Gonzalez was recent testimony to Congress by James Comey, a former deputy attorney general, who said Gonzalez tried in 2004 to persuade then Attorney General John Ashcroft, seriously ill at the time in a hospital, to approve an extension of President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program.

The key sponsor of the Senate no-confidence resolution on Gonzalez, Democrat Charles Schumer, says he expects it to draw support from at least 60 senators.