August 27th, 2007
12:10 PM ET
5 years ago

Senior admin. officials: Chertoff may get nod

Chertoff may be nominated to succeed Gonzales.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush may nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, senior administration officials told CNN Monday.

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.

From there, he moved to the District of New Jersey and was assistant U.S. attorney from 1987 to 1990 and U.S. attorney until 1994.

Between 1994 and 1996, Chertoff was counsel to the GOP Whitewater committee investigating the business dealings of President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, who is now New York's junior senator and a candidate for president of the United States.

An independent counsel later determined that the Whitewater investigation did not uncover sufficient evidence to warrant any criminal charges against the Clintons.

As a senator, Mrs. Clinton cast the only vote against Chertoff when he was nominated for the appeals court in 2003.

UPDATE: A Senate aide with close connections to the Department of Justice tells CNN's Dana Bash Chertoff will not be the president's choice to replace Gonzales.

Filed under: Alberto Gonzales • Michael Chertoff
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. David, Salinas, CA

    Certainly it was long past time for Alberto Gonzalez to resign. Whether you buy his version of the U.S. Attorney firings and the warrantless wiretaps or not, his testimony before Congress was indicative of either duplicity or severe brain damage, either of which should disqualify a member of the Justice Department.

    I think Michael Chertoff is basically an honest guy and totally qualified, but his nomination to replace Gonzalez as AG is highly problematic for several reasons:

    1) This administration needs new blood. To keep rotating the same few cronies looks incestuous and limited. Gonzalez kept his job as long as he did because he was part of the so-called Texas Posse, President Bush’s small circle of friends from down home. The President needs to cast a wider net and show that he wants a quality cabinet, not just a familiar one.

    2) Politics vs Policy. There has never been a White House (not even Nixon’s) with less understanding of the importance of separating political victory from policy decisions. Whether it’s Karl Rove making legislative calls or the Gonzalez firing Democratic U.S. Attorneys, the Bush administration has blurred a line that should be clear. Chertoff was part of the failed Whitewater investigation, worked with Rudy Giuliani, and was a major fund-raiser for President Bush and the Republican party. The Justice Department isn’t supposed to be a political arm of the White House. There are many highly qualified Attorneys without the political baggage that Chertoff carries.

    3) Two confirmation hearings are worse than one. If President Bush nominates Chertoff, he’ll have to replace him, too By choosing someone from outside the current circle, the President can save his administration at least one hearing full of dirty laundry.

    4) Katrina, Katrina, Katrina. Chertoff was the guy in charge of the pathetic disaster response, and he tried to pass the buck when faced with the aftermath. Despite an existing FEMA report which identified the exact scenario as one of the three most likely disasters to strike the U.S., Chertoff said, “That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight." Whether you buy that or not, coverage of a Chertoff confirmation hearing is going to feature lots of footage of those poor New Orleans folks stranded on rooftops and the President saying “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” I doubt if that’s what the Republicans want on tv screens in an election year.

    Strategically, I think the President should leave Chertoff where he is, and replace Gonzalez with a moderate highly-respected Republican ex-member of Congress. That way he can stumble through his final lame-duck year in peace. But then, the only thing I’m absolutely sure of is that the President doesn’t care what I think.

    August 28, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. Lyons Steve

    Alberto Gonzales was a great representative as well, and showed a strong face of leadership in light of Democrat's repeated "which hunts" to get at anything or anyone connected to the President.

    Gonzales is a stinking liar and criminal who was the worst A.G. in the history of the U.S., just as Dubya is, by far, the worst president in history.

    And Bea, hate to burst your sadly brainwashed bubble, but plenty of Republicans turned against your Torture Boy as well.

    Can't blame it on Republicans.

    What I'd blame it on, Bea, is a lack of honesty and leadership by the entire administration. The only other place besides the White House that so many criminals gather is in prison or in a gang.

    Wake up.

    August 29, 2007 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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