According to White House insiders, there were plans for outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, but not as early as he did. “We were expecting it over Labor Day weekend, not a week earlier,” says a White House staffer.
In fact, few if any senior staff at the Department of Justice were prepared for the Monday (August 27) resignation of Gonzales. According to DOJ aides, Gonzales wrote his very brief remarks at the press conference, with speechwriters and policy advisers completely in the dark of what was happening.
So why the speed up? According to DOJ staff, revelations that the Department was continuing to improperly vet partners for Muslim outreach programming were brewing, particularly with the resignation of the head of the department’s civil rights division.
“It’s been an ongoing issue, and there was politics at play, as well,” according to a DOJ source.
Earlier in August, it was reported that the department had canceled a Muslim outreach event at Washington headquarters, which would have featured Gonzales, after it was learned one of the cosponsors had ties to a Muslim organization that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing prosecution.
And why was there concern about these stories? Because the U.S. Attorney handling the Holy Land case is none other than Patrick Fitzgerald, of Scooter Libby fame. Fitzgerald is believed by some inside the White House to have been the source of the earlier Muslim leak that embarrassed Gonzales.
SAVE HIM FOR LATER
Former Solicitor General and Rudy Guiliani judicial adviser Ted Olson is believed to be the frontrunner to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.
There is sentiment for current Solicitor General and Olson acolyte Paul Clements, but some in the White House are arguing that Clements is too young to sacrifice for a political job that would probably come with a brutal confirmation process.
“Clements is one of those guys who a number of conservatives have pegged for a Supreme Court nomination some day, and a Democratic confirmation process for AG would probably make that court nomination a bit harder,” says a White House insider.