Chertoff's name was quickly mentioned as a possible replacement to Gonzales.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As often happens with high level administration resignations, it wasn’t too long after news broke of the departure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before speculation over his replacement reached a feverish pitch.
Senior administration officials were quick to tell CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff would likely get the nod.
Chertoff, 53, previously sat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles appeals from New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands. Before becoming a judge, he was assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's criminal division from 2001 to 2003.
Chertoff received his law degree from Harvard University and was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William H. Brennan Jr. in 1979 and 1980. He first stepped into a prosecutorial role as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1983 to 1987.
But while some senior administration officials are strongly floating Chertoff as a candidate, others are waiving CNN off, saying that because of his role during Hurricane Katrina, the nomination could run into problems.
Chertoff has taken heat from both Democrats and Republicans for the government's slow response in providing relief to victims of the 2005 storm.
Meanwhile, a congressional source familiar with deliberations about Gonzales' replacement tells CNN's Dana Bash the impression is that it will not be Chertoff and that the administration is "playing you guys,"referring to the media.
Furthermore, a source close to Chertoff told CNN's Kelli Arena that the Homeland Security chief isn’t aware if he is being considered for the top Justice post.
"This would be a surprise to Mike," the source said.
Regarding the search itself, a senior administration official tells CNN's Jessica Yellin that White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has been working overtime looking for a so-called “establishment type” to replace Gonzales.
Another name being floated is Larry Thompson, the former deputy Attorney General until 2003, and now a general counsel at PepsiCo Corporation.
Thompson has been spotted at the Justice Department in the last couple of weeks, according to another congressional source with close connections to the DOJ.
CNN’s John King, however, reports that, according to senior administration officials, when Larry Thompson has been approached in the past to return to the government, he has turned down offers, saying he is content in the private sector.
A spokesperson for PepsiCo tells CNN that Thompson has not indicated he is interested in leaving the company. "He's doing a great job here at PepsiCo," the spokesperson said. "He is very happy in his role here."
Other names mentioned as a possibility are Ted Olsen, the former United States Solicitor General, and George Terwilliger, a former deputy Attorney General.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney