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Gonzales' rocky term coming to the end of the road

  • Story Highlights
  • Gonzales had announced in August his intention to resign
  • Tenure had been marked by criticism from Democrats, some Republicans
  • Solicitor General Paul Clement to serve as acting attorney general
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Alberto Gonzales will say goodbye to Justice Department colleagues on Friday, ending his tumultuous term as the nation's attorney general.

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Gonzales was under fire during much of his term as attorney general.

Gonzales had announced on August 28 that he was resigning. President Bush said he would accept the resignation reluctantly.

Throughout Gonzales' time as attorney general, controversies surrounded his positions on issues such as U.S. interrogation techniques and the wiretapping of conversations between Americans and suspected terrorists overseas.

Detractors said Gonzales' primary role seemed to be defending administration policies, not applying the law.

For his part, Gonzales -- the first Latino to head the Justice Department -- said his "worst days have been better than my father's best days."

Criticism of Gonzales peaked earlier this year over the firing of several U.S. attorneys in 2006 -- terminations that were alleged to have been politically motivated.

In probing the U.S. attorney firings, the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Gonzales to testify. When doing so, Gonzales repeatedly seemed to contradict himself, other members of his department or Justice Department documents.

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said after the attorney general announced his plans to resign. "He lacked independence, he lacked judgment and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove."

Rove, another longtime Bush official and his top political adviser, also stepped down recently.

After Gonzales announced his intention to resign, Bush defended his "close friend" and slammed what he called "unfair treatment" of him.

The president said it was "sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person" is impeded "from doing important work."

Gonzales won Senate confirmation as the 80th U.S. attorney general in 2005.

Several names have been floated as a possible successor to Gonzales, among them former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and Securities and Exchange Commission chief Christopher Cox.

Thompson holds a general counsel position at PepsiCo. "He's widely liked and very popular within the Justice Department," Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff has said of Thompson. "Ideally, he would be a non-divisive choice."

Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Noel Francisco agreed that Thompson -- who would be the first African-American attorney general -- might be embraced by both Republicans and Democrats.

Cox is a 17-year veteran GOP congressman from California who also served President Reagan as senior associate counsel.

Also mentioned as a possible Gonzales successor: Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. But a Chertoff nomination could run into problems because of his role during Hurricane Katrina.

New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has suggested that a Chertoff confirmation hearing would be contentious.

"I would say there are a lot of questions about Michael Chertoff that will have to be answered," Schumer said last month.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting attorney general, the White House has said, until a nominee has been confirmed by the Senate. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Alberto GonzalesU.S. Department of Justice

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