LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Arkansas' U.S. senators said Thursday that the nation needs a new attorney general because of how the Justice Department handled the firings of eight U.S. attorneys dismissed without a clear explanation.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Mark Pryor called for Alberto Gonzales' resignation, while Sen. Blanche Lincoln said in a conference call with news reporters that Gonzales simply "needs to be replaced."
The senators, both D-Ark., have questioned the firing of Bud Cummins, one of the eight federal prosecutors fired last year. Cummins, the prosecutor for the eastern district of Arkansas, was replaced with Tim Griffin, a former assistant to White House adviser Karl Rove.
In his address to the Senate, Pryor, D-Ark., listed five reasons why Gonzales should resign. In his list, Pryor said the firings were either without cause or suspicious, that the White House was directly involved and that the administration put "a provision in the Patriot Act to carry out their schemes."
"It was carried out by the Attorney General," Pryor said. "The Attorney General crossed a line by putting politics above the pursuit of justice and has seriously damaged his stature and legacy in the process."
Pryor was one of six Democrats who voted to confirm Gonzales' appointment to the attorney general post in 2005.
Though Lincoln, also D-Ark., did not specifically call for the Gonzales' resignation, she did say that the country needs a different person in the post.
"I think the administration and nation would be well served if they looked to replace Mr. Gonzales," Lincoln said. "The U.S. attorney controversy has caused a serious breach between the Justice Department and Congress, a breach that I'm not sure can be repaired with Mr. Gonzales at the helm."
Lincoln said she voted against confirming Gonzales when he was appointed "because I was not confident then that he could exercise the independence and judgment that the post of the attorney general demanded."
Both senators also said the firings circumvented the process of nominating a federal prosecutor and infringed on the Senate's responsibilities of confirming that nomination. Pryor said the Justice Department also had a clear method of lying to both he and Lincoln about Griffin's interim appointment.
"While the administration has said publicly that they desired their nominee, Tim Griffin, to go through the nomination process before the Senate, e-mails between White House staff and Justice Department officials ... proved that they would 'run out the clock' to avoid the process demanded by our Constitution," Lincoln said.
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