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First glance

From NBC's Mark Murray
It was in mid-December 2006 that word first trickled out that Tim Griffin, a Karl Rove protégé and former GOP opposition researcher, was replacing the US attorney in Arkansas. Three months later, it has snowballed into THE story that now consumes Washington and that -- at the very least -- has placed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' job in jeopardy. Today, The Politico and the Los Angeles Times have floated the names of possible successors to Gonzales: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; Larry Thompson, the deputy AG under John Ashcroft; White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend; former solicitor general Ted Olsen; former US Sen. and UN ambassador John Danforth (R); and even former Sen. Fred Thompson (R).

Fred Thompson, of course, also seems to be eyeing a possible White House bid. Olsen has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president. Thompson's name, meanwhile, was floated by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) on Meet the Press. Chertoff could win confirmation, but would bring back memories of his department's handling of Hurricane Katrina. And then there's Danforth, who would probably be the easiest to confirm (and would become the second ex-Missouri senator to serve as Bush's AG), but he and his advocacy for embryonic stem cells haven't made him too popular with evangelical Christians.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports, however, that multiple senior White House officials are pushing back on these reports that there is a short list of AG replacements under consideration. Officials say the reports are "overblown" and "untrue." (O'Donnell notes, though, that the use of the term "overblown" would seem to leave open a tiny crack.)

There's more on the US attorneys controversy. Today, NBC's Ken Strickland says, White House Counsel Fred Fielding is expected to announce whether the Administration will allow Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and others to be questioned by Congress about their involvement in the controversy. Also today, the Senate will vote on legislation to strip the attorney general of his power that many Democrats feel was the genesis of the firings. The bill would prohibit the AG from replacing US attorneys for in indefinite period without Senate confirmation. The bill has bipartisan support.