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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Gonzales testifies in firings row
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales has resisted all calls to resign as attorney general
US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has faced tough questioning from a Senate judiciary panel on the sacking of eight federal prosecutors.

Mr Gonzales was also questioned on the White House's use of wire-tapping for terrorism surveillance, which critics have said is illegal.

"I don't trust you," said the panel's head, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.

President George W Bush has resisted repeated calls to sack Mr Gonzales, who denies any wrongdoing.

"With a history of civil liberty abuses and cover-ups, this administration has squandered our trust," said Senator Leahy.

"I am not willing to accept a simple statement of 'trust us'," he said. "I don't trust you."

Resignation resisted

Senator Arlen Specter, the committee's senior Republican, suggested that Mr Gonzales appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the sacking of the eight federal prosecutors.

He said such a move might be necessary to ensure congressional oversight of the Bush administration.

"The constitutional authority and responsibility for congressional oversight is gone," he said.

US President George W Bush (file image)

"If that is to happen, the president can run the government as he chooses, answer no questions."

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is the latest in a series of hearings looking into last year's dismissals.

Mr Gonzales has been under pressure to resign over the row, which centres on whether the firings were politically motivated.

Mr Bush earlier this month invoked executive privilege to keep former White House counsel Harriet Miers and another former White House aide from testifying.

Backed by Mr Bush, Mr Gonzales has so far resisted all calls - some from senior Republicans - to resign over the dismissal of the prosecutors.

In a statement prepared for the hearing, Mr Gonzales said: "I could walk away, or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems.

"Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems."

Wiretapping row

Mr Gonzales also faced questions on Tuesday relating to the Bush administration's wiretapping programme.

US ATTORNEYS
93 nationwide
Serve at the discretion of the president, with the approval of the Senate
Prosecute criminal cases brought by the government
Prosecute or defend civil cases in which the government is a party
Collect debts owed to the government
Source: US Department of Justice

He denied an account that in 2004 he pressured then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorise Mr Bush's controversial domestic spying programme while he was ill in hospital.

Earlier this year, Mr Ashcroft's deputy James Comey told the committee he had been angered by the appearance of Mr Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andy Card at Mr Ashcroft's bedside.

"I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general," Mr Comey testified in May.

Speaking about the meeting for the first time, Mr Gonzales said he and Mr Card had been asked by congressional leaders to ensure that the surveillance programme did not expire.

They had gone to inform Mr Ashcroft, he said, but they did not press him when it became apparent he was not competent at that time to reauthorise the programme.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Alberto Gonzales facing Senate questions



SEE ALSO
Republicans block Bush ally vote
12 Jun 07 |  Americas
Gonzales deputy resigns amid row
15 May 07 |  Americas
Gonzales faces tough Senate panel
20 Apr 07 |  Americas
'Lost' e-mail row over US firings
13 Apr 07 |  Americas
US justice head 'knew of firings'
29 Mar 07 |  Americas
Q&A: Fired prosecutors row
22 Mar 07 |  Americas

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