August 27th, 2007
03:52 PM ET
13 years ago

Gonzales replacement speculation in full force

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

Filed under: Alberto Gonzales
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Lance, Monrovia, CA

    Why should Jafar from Aladdin be the next attorney general? Wasn't he the guy that botched the Katrina relief effort, and is still currently botching it?

    Heck of a job Jafar.

    August 28, 2007 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  2. 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 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Grandpa Munster

    Chertoff would be the most likely candidate, however, things can change. Recall the amnesty bill for illegal immigrants that failed? Chertoff was as disappointed as was the rest of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton monarchy. Additionally, if individuals like Sen. Arlen Spector (R) are already cheering for Chertoff as the most viable candidate it means the American citizens are being screwed. Recall, Arlen Spector was the defense attorney who helped Ira Einhorn (Unicorn Killer and founder of Earth Day) eludes justice for many years after his conviction. Democrats and Republicans are both applauding Chertoff, this again means we as citizens, left and right, are being screwed. Don’t let the forth coming stupid confirmation hearings fool you into believing these political sociopaths are doing the peoples work. It is all show time and public relations for their up coming elections. Most of these clowns in Washington D.C. have no idea what it is like to have to fend off the illegal immigrants on your way to and from work; how as a small construction business owner you get underbid, because you pay your employees a quality wage; how you as an American citizen are placed in the back of the line in the hospital waiting room for hours; how you as an American citizen are paying higher tuition and tax to accommodate the entitlement of those who call you a bigot if you disagree to allowing criminals to roam free. Most elected officials are well insulated from the issue of the day to day citizen. They care mostly about occupying their posh jobs in Washington D.C. When their jobs are threatened that’s when they get serious; it happens once or twice about every thee years. Other than that it is an embarrassing donkey and elephant show. It must provide the enemies of our nation, who take note of everything they do, plenty of confidence to destroying us.

    I assure you the removal of Gonzales was not for the good of the country, or political pressure, these people in Washington D.C. do not really care about political pressure. If they did the Iraq War would have never taken place and Saddam Hussein would still have things under control, which includes Iran. Rather, these individuals are seething from the failure of the criminal immigration amnesty bill. It is my belief those who wanted the passage of this pathetic bill, will be the same ones questioning Mr. Chertoff during the confirmation hearings. Take note of all the trade and security deals being done without congressional approval or the input of the American citizen. The bottom line, Chertoff is a corporate and political puppet. It is why he would be the candidate for the Attorney General. Much like the Drug War, Iraq War, billions, and billions of record profits are being made by big business. Both Democrats and Republicans gain profit from the War, illegal immigration and most favored trade status with our enemies like China. In my view, who ever becomes the new U.S. Attorney General, won’t be there to pursue justice, but to manipulate justice and realign the administrations agenda for profit. Do not be quick to assume they are not going to do something troubling, treasonous, and constitutionally subversive.
    Katrina is water under the bridge, most people do not care about it since the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have been given three-hundred billion of our tax dollars, including hundreds of millions in donations and have gotten almost nowhere. Remember never to build under the waterline or in flood prone area. Read Animal Farm. It is time for some fresh faces in Washington D.C. I am sick and tired of looking at Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, Mc Cain, Schumer, Reed, Pelosi, Lott, Specter. And while were at it I am sick of predictable political puppets hacks like Sean Hannity, Alan Combs, Jerry Rivers and Robert Zimmerman. Done with my rant! Vote Independent...

    August 28, 2007 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. bob, from Dover, Delaware Home of the Military Morgue

    Chertoff will be just as bad as Gonzales. Chertof wants a Virtual Fence that is just Code for a never ending money pit and a project that will never end. Wasn't Chertoff one of the Juliani recommendations after BigJ's first one was exposed as having mafia Ties. How can these people go into work every day do absolutely nothing to help and often cause more harm then go home and kiss their families and look in the mirror. I think its because people in South Africa and the Iraq don't have maps AND SUCH. GEES

    August 28, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. An American

    To Bob, Boston MA

    If you do not like it go back to Israel. This is a CHRISTIAN country and not a Jewish State. You guys have enough of those ..... for now. Although I dare say you will start losing them after this year when we elect a not so co-operative Jewish Puppet government.

    August 28, 2007 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  6. Snake Plisken

    What's another idiot taking place of another? The carnage of Gitmo will be still go on! Amazing heh? And it's not just his fault either! How about the Republicans as well as the Democrats who will go along with him. It's just the same Ol dirt on the window again, the window will not be washed.

    Snake Plisken

    August 29, 2007 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. Charles, Pikeville, KY

    God, no... please tell us it's not true that Bush would consider trying to shove the Katrina bomb down our throats as the next AG!!!!!!

    Chertoff wasn't right for Homeland Security. He wasn't right for much else. He certainly is NOT right for Attorney General. Send him home and he can take Bush with him.

    August 29, 2007 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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