Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has agreed to change the way U.S. attorneys can be replaced, the Washington Post reports. It is a reversal in administration policy that came after he was browbeaten by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee angry over the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors. The change, if approved by Congress, would return to federal trial judges the power to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys.
The capitulation came soon after several leading Senate Republicans sharply criticized Gonzales for his handling of the issue. Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said, “One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later.” Two of the administration’s strongest defenders openly questioned the Justice Department’s handling of the dismissals. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al.) called the lack of explanation for the firings “unhealthy,” and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az.) said the department’s public criticisms of the ousted prosecutors were unwarranted. “Some people’s reputations are going to suffer needlessly,” Kyl said.