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Behind Gonzales' resignation

From NBC's Pete Williams and Domenico Montanaro
A senior administration official says Gonzales' resignation was entirely his own decision. The official says Gonzales sent a letter to the president on Friday stating his intention to step down by mid-September but that the president did not accept it and instead invited Gonzales to Texas to talk about it.

Gonzales and his wife went to Crawford. The president and Gonzales talked Sunday and the president accepted, reluctantly, the official said.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will become acting attorney general once Gonzales is gone.

Here are the reactions from presidential candidates we've heard so far:

BROWNBACK: Said on MSNBC that Gonzales' resignation is "long overdue." Easy to say now. Brownback never called for Gonzales' resignation prior to today.

EDWARDS: "Better late than never."

OBAMA: "I have long believed that Alberto Gonzales subverted justice to promote a political agenda, and so I am pleased that he has finally resigned today. The President needs to nominate an Attorney General who will be the people's lawyer, not the President's lawyer, and in an Obama Administration that person will first and foremost defend and promote the rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution," said Obama.

RICHARDSON: "The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is long overdue. The President must nominate an Attorney General who is a lawyer for the American people not a political arm of the White House."

VIDEO: Richardson is asked why he said he was delaying his decision on whether Alberto Gonzales should be fired.

Richardson, though, was the last major Democratic presidential candidate to call for Gonzales' resignation. He said he it took him a while to make up his mind because Gonzales is a fellow Hispanic -- a response that drew criticism.

From the MSNBC Democratic debate earlier this year:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson, you were one of the last people on this stage to call for the resignation of the attorney general, Attorney General Gonzales. When asked by a journalist why you were taking long to make up your mind about this, you replied, quote, "It's because he's Hispanic. I'm honest."
Is that the right way to make personnel decisions?

RICHARDSON: That's how I felt.
Now, what I said, too, Brian, was that I wanted to await Alberto Gonzales's testimony before the U.S. Senate, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He hadn't had a chance to fully explain why, number one, he'd politicized the Justice Department; number two, why he indiscriminately fired U.S. attorneys, including one in New Mexico who was just doing his job and was being pushed to have some political indictments; and third, why is it that, as attorney general, he did not -- he did not act as the lawyer for the American people rather than as the lawyer and political adviser to the White House, staff and the president.
 
So, yeah, you know, he's -- came from nothing. I know the guy. Did it affect that he was Hispanic in what I said? Yeah, it did, and I said so. I think the American people want candor. They don't want blow- dried candidates with perfection. That was the reason I held back. I did call for his resignation. Maybe I was last, but I wanted to give him a chance to explain his position. He didn't do it, and I called for his resignation. (MSNBC debate, 4/26/07)

****UPDATE****DODD: "Mr. Gonzales' Justice Department became a political wing of the Bush Administration and his resignation is long overdue. I will only vote to confirm a nominee for Attorney General who is truly independent and who will guarantee reforms that restore and uphold the Constitution."

****UPDATE 2****BIDEN: "As I've said before, Attorney General Gonzales has lost the confidence of the vast majority of the American people and the Congress.  His resignation is long overdue. When I voted against Attorney General Gonzales' confirmation, I voiced concern about his ability to go from being the President's lawyer to the people's lawyer. I expressed doubts then about his judgment in light of his track record, and role as an architect of policies attempting to place the President above the law. My skepticism was confirmed by his conduct, and his failure to put protecting the American people over protecting the President.  The next Attorney General should not make the same mistake."

****UPDATE 3****CLINTON: The New York senator has not released a statement, but during the LIVESTRONG forum, MSNBC's Chris Matthews brought up the topic. She applauded with the audience when Matthews said Gonzales had resigned and added, "The next attorney general should care about rule of law more than he protects the president."

****UPDATE 4****CLINTON: Just in... Clinton's statement: "This resignation is long overdue, and so is the appointment of an Attorney General who will put the rule of law and our Constitution above partisan politics. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took an oath to uphold our Constitution and respect the rule of law, but time and time again, he demonstrated that his loyalties lie with the President and his political agenda, not the American people or the evenhanded and impartial enforcement of our laws. In his actions and inaction, from warantless wiretaps to the firing of U.S. Attorneys, his loyalty was to the President, not the American people. The Department's hardworking lawyers, law enforcement officers, and staff are trusted to defend our Constitution, not one Administration or political party. That trust is central to the sanctity of the rule of law and the vitality of our democracy. Because he betrayed his obligations and the trust of the American people, I welcome today's announcement that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned his post as Attorney General of the United States.

"My hope is that the President will select a new Attorney General who will respect the rule of law and abandon partisanship, who will serve the American people and not the President's political ideology, and who will answer to the Constitution and not political operatives. It is past time to clean up this mess and restore non-partisan accountability and competence to the Department of Justice."