U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports his two-year tenure as head of the Justice Department was marked by controversy.
The official announcement from the attorney general was brief.
"Yesterday, I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States effective as of September 17th, 2007," he said.
Alberto Gonzales gave no reason for his decision, and there was no direct mention of the controversies surrounding his tenure, only praise for the Justice Department staff, and an expression of gratitude to President Bush.
"Public service is honorable and noble. And I am profoundly grateful to President Bush for his friendship and the many opportunities he has given me to serve the American people," said Gonzales.
Gonzales's friendship with the president dates back to Mr. Bush's tenure as governor of Texas. He served first as White House legal counsel, and was nominated to be attorney general in 2005, the first Hispanic ever chosen to become the nation's top law enforcement officer.
President Bush stood by Gonzales as questions were raised in Congress about his integrity and competence. And as recently as three weeks ago, the president reaffirmed his confidence in his attorney general.
But when Gonzales offered to leave, the president did not persuade him to stay on. Instead, Mr. Bush went before reporters in Texas and accepted the resignation with regret.
"It is sad. But we live at a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons," said President Bush.
Gonzales' decision to step down comes at a time when Congress is stepping up its scrutiny of the Justice Department. Lawmakers are looking into accusations federal prosecutors were fired largely for political reasons. They are also investigating the Justice Department's handling of a domestic spying program that was used to help track down terrorists.
Democrat Charles Schumer, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says President Bush now has an opportunity to name an attorney general who can be a real leader.
"Unlike the last time, he needs to pick the best person, not his best friend," said Schumer.
Schumer says Democrats will support any nominee who puts the rule of law before political considerations.
"We beseech, we implore the administration to work with us to nominate someone who Democrats can support and who America can be proud of," he added.
There is no word yet on just who that nominee might be. The government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Paul Clement, will fill the post on a temporary basis until a new attorney general is named by the president and confirmed by the senate.