Gonzales: 'Compelling reasons' are too high a standard for the Bush administration in picking personnel
In the afternoon session of an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a House Democrat that "compelling reasons" were too high a standard to hold the Bush administration to when it comes to making personnel decisions.
Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN) had pressed the Attorney General on why various US Attorneys were fired, suggesting that there should be "compelling reasons" for their removal from office.
"Don't you think that when an individual who is a public official, who's out there in the public line, who's an attorney, whose reputation is so important to having their license to practice law, that when they're asked to resign from a position, that there should be a compelling reason and that you as their appointed official should ask and inquire why and realize and come to a belief that there is a compelling reason for them to be terminated, and not just accept some mysterious group's recommendation?" Cohen asked.
Gonzales answered in the negative.
"I think a compelling reason standard is much too high for those of us who are appointed by the President of the United States, and serve at his pleasure, and we all know that," he argued.
Gonzales assailed for "national secret"
A combative Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) had earlier in the hearing pressed the Attorney General to explain who had asked for US Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias to be added to the list of Attorneys slated for firing.
As Wexler went through the list of people who could have added Iglesias to the list, he grew exasperated.
"Somebody else other than you, other than the President, other than the Vice President, other than every Deputy Attorney General who's come to this committee, put him on the list. But with all due respect, Mr. Attorney General, you won't tell the American people on the record who put Mr. Iglesias on the list to be fired! It's a national secret, isn't it?" Wexler shouted.
When the Attorney General continued to demur on the answer, Wexler continued to press him.
"You were OK with firing him, but you won't tell us who made the recommendation to fire him," he added.
The hearing went into recess so that committee members could return to the House floor for votes shortly before 3 PM.