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Gonzales Claims Deputy Attorney General And Chief Of Staff Are Not ‘Top Aides’

Speaking at National Press Club this morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked if he should follow the example of his “top aides,” such as Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, and resign “because of the mishandling of the U.S. attorneys situation.”

Gonzales punted on the question, ludicrously claiming that McNulty, former chief of staff Kyle Sampson and former White House liason Monica Goodling were not actually “top aides.” “I wouldn’t characterize those as top aides,” said Gonazles. Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/05/GonzalesTopAides.320.240.flv]

McNulty was the no. 2 official at the Justice Department. This morning, Gonzales said that McNulty had “a unique position” and occupied “a very central place in the work of the Department.” He also noted that “[m]ost of the operational authority and decisions” were made by McNulty.

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Similarly, Sampson and Goodling had the “extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department.”

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Transcript:

Question: Most of your top aides have resigned, many of them because of the mishandling of the U.S. attorneys situation. You’ve taken responsibility for all of this, but that being the case, shouldn’t you also resign as the person in charge?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: I wouldn’t — you’ve said this a couple of times, most of my top aides — I mean, obviously, clearly, the loss of a deputy attorney general is a signifigant loss. But you have Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff. We now have an acting chief of staff. We now have a new White House liason. I wouldn’t characterize those as top aides. I guess the other person you may be referring to is Mike Battle, the head of the executive office of the United States attorneys. He was planning on leaving well before any of this became an issue, and we now have a very strong career person in there. So, the department, the work of the department continues and will continue. And as to whether or not my resignation would be appropriate, at the end of the day, that really is a question for the president of the United States.