Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will soon be gone, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens predicted Monday.
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"I don't expect him to be long on the Washington scene," he said at a joint session of the state Legislature.
Gonzales played a key role in the removal of eight U.S. attorneys who were investigating Republican corruption or were otherwise seen as insufficiently loyal to the Bush administration's political agenda.
"I don't agree with what was done," Stevens said.
The senator also criticized a previously little-known provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows the attorney general to appoint and remove U.S. attorneys without approval of Congress.
Stevens said he only recently became aware of that provision when it was used to appoint a U.S. attorney for Alaska. He said he discovered that it had been inserted into the Patriot Act in conference committee with the House of Representatives after it passed the Senate.
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Previously, the Senate had authority to confirm or reject administration appointments. Stevens said he was strongly opposed to loss of that authority.
"It was a grievous assault against the privilege of the Senate," said Stevens, who has served in the Senate for 40 years, longest of any Republican.
Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, asked Stevens about the attorney firings. He said he was impressed to hear Stevens admit what many people already know: that the Patriot Act was rushed through with many of its provisions unclear.
French, a former prosecutor, said he was glad to hear Stevens criticize the politicization of the Department of Justice.
"I took that to mean support for the attorney general is crumbling, when you get somebody who is a fairly mainline Republican like Sen. Stevens saying that," he said.
Pat Forgey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.