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Gonzales under fire

The Washington Post writes about more GOP senators, including Norm Coleman and Lamar Alexander, who are criticizing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rep. Rick Renzi (R) is now the subject of a criminal inquiry into a land deal, but the Wall Street Journal writes that the investigation stalled as Renzi faced re-election. "As midterm elections approached last November, federal investigators in Arizona faced unexpected obstacles in getting needed Justice Department approvals to advance a corruption investigation of … Renzi, people close to the case said. The delays … raise new questions about whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or other officials may have weighed political issues in some investigations." The Justice Department denies any foot-dragging.

NBC's Ken Strickland reports that Gonzales today will meet on Capitol Hill with Sen. Senator Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in an apparent effort to make amends. Early in the controversy over the firing of the US attorneys, Gonzales made statements to Pryor that were later contradicted in e-mails from Justice Department staff. They involved the firing of the Arkansas prosecutor, who was replaced by Karl Rove protégé Tim Griffin. 

During the course of the committee investigation, an e-mail from Gonzales' chief of staff suggested that Griffin's appointment be executed in a way to bypass Senate confirmation, allowing him to serve indefinitely. But about the same time, Strick says, Gonzales was telling Pryor the appointment was temporary -- and sought Pryor's help in getting him confirmed. Pryor grew livid as the investigation unfolded saying at one point, "The attorney general not only lied to me as a person, but when he lied to me, he lied to the Senate, and he lied to the people I represent."

The issue was raised a few times during Gonzales' hearing last week. Pryor is a moderate freshman senator who's well liked and respected from both sides of the aisle. So much so, Strick notes, that even GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham offered Gonzales some "personal advice," suggesting he meet to Pryor and "straighten that out."

GRAHAM: "You know, we all respect Senator Pryor. And he said some pretty harsh things, which is out of character. So I would just advise you to sit down with him and walk through what happened, because I think he's a reasonable fellow, and y'all straighten that out if you can."
GONZALES: "Senator, I couldn't agree more. I have a great deal of admiration for Senator Pryor, and I think that's a good idea."