David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

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The New York Times has a little more of the weekend tick-tock leading up to the Gonzales resignation, and I must say that it strikes me as an especially carefully crafted and stage-managed departure:

A senior administration official said today that Mr. Gonzales, who was in Washington, had called the president in Crawford, Tex., on Friday to offer his resignation. The president rebuffed the offer, but said the two should talk face to face on Sunday.

Mr. Gonzales and his wife flew to Texas, and over lunch on Sunday the president accepted the resignation with regret, the official said.

On Saturday night Mr. Gonzales was contacted by his press spokesman to ask how the department should respond to inquiries from reporters about rumors of his resignation, and he told the spokesman to deny the reports.

White House spokesmen also insisted on Sunday that they did not believe that Mr. Gonzales was planning to resign. Aides to senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said over the weekend that they had received no suggestion from the administration that Mr. Gonzales intended to resign.

As late as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales himself was denying through his spokesman that he was quitting. The spokesman, Brian Rohrekasse, said Sunday that he telephoned the attorney general about the reports of his imminent resignation “and he said it wasn’t true — so I don’t know what more I can say.”

Lying to subordinates and the press is par for the course for these guys (and for much of official Washington in similar circumstances, truth be told). So nothing out of the ordinary there. But this elaborate choreograph, as related to The Times by administration officials, of Bush initially rebuffing the resignation, seems designed to emphasize that the timing and circumstances of Gonzales' departure was of his own choosing and that the President's hand was not being forced by Democrats on the Hill.

In short, I don't buy that tick-tock as being an accurate reflection of events, not with an attorney general who became a bipartisan laughingstock perhaps unparalleled among cabinet officers in U.S. history. The man was run out of town. The White House effort seems designed to minimize the appearance of that fact. If a fraction of the effort that went into stage-managing the politics of the resignation were put into actually running the Justice Department, or governing generally, well, then we wouldn't be mired quite as deeply in this mess as we are.

We saw the sour, petulant Bush on display in his public statement from Waco this morning. His longtime crony Alberto Gonzales remains "a talented honorable person" whose "good name was dragged through the mud" during "months of unfair treatment."

We'll have the video of the President's statement up shortly.

Update: Here is the President, a discerning judge of men:

We're rounding up the reaction to the Gonzales resignation from key figures. Some of the highlights:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): "Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): "This will not bring peace. This will bring more chaos."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “The resignation of Attorney General Gonzales is long overdue. The rampant politicization of federal law enforcement that occurred under his tenure seriously eroded public confidence in our justice system."

John Edwards: "Better late than never."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "I spoke with the White House this morning, and suggested a couple of nominees who I believe would easily gain confirmation."*

And my favorite, from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL): "Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."

More reactions here.

*Just guessing, but one of Feinstein's suggestions had to be former DAG Jim Comey, a non-starter for Bush.

Solicitor General Paul Clement is reported to be President Bush's choice for acting Attorney General.

Update: The AP is also reporting that a permanent replacement for Gonzales may not be announced before the President leaves for Australia next Monday, which at least suggests that the White House does plan on sending a nomination to the Senate for confirmation, rather than attempting some sort of recess appointment or other vacancy shenanigan. Late Update: As U.S. News' "Washington Whispers" first reported over the weekend, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff is being floated as a possible permanent replacement for Gonzales. CNN is now reporting that Chertoff is the "likely" nominee. Considering that Chertoff presided over the Katrina disaster, his nomination as attorney general would be nothing short of unbelievable.

Gonzales presser at 10:30 . . . President to speak at 11:30 . . .

Late Update: President's presser moved back to 11:50.

NYT: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales submitted his resignation Friday. President Bush "grudgingly" accepted it.

More soon . . .

What a day. It's been hard to keep up. Between the Dems calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the attorney general this morning to Sen. Lisa Murkowski abandoning her riverfront property on the Kenai River (thanks to a little outfit called TPMmuckraker, which her staff claimed not to have heard of before now) to FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony this afternoon, which was devastating to Alberto Gonzales.

But with all that going on, we wanted to dig a little deeper into Gonzales' statements about the Terrorist Surveillance Program which have plunged him into even deeper hot water with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So Paul Kiel and Spencer Ackerman have put together a detailed post on the history of the NSA surveillance program and what precisely the Administration has said about it and what Gonzales' obfuscations may really be about. Call it a grand unified theory of the Gonzales perjury crisis and the warrantless surveillance program.

Go take a look.

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) plans to sell the Kenai River lot she purchased from politically connected developer Bob Penney back to Penney. The purchase was originally reported by TPMmuckraker's Laura McGann last week.

The Anchorage paper reports:

Murkowski announced the give back a day after a Washington watchdog group filed a 15-page Senate ethics complaint against her, alleging that Penney sold the property well below market value. The transaction amounted to an illegal gift worth between $70,000 and $170,000, depending on how the property was valued, according to the complaint by the National Legal and Policy Center.

Murkowski told reporters in her Capitol office this morning that Penney, a real estate developer who does business in Alaska and Outside, has agreed to buy back the property for the $179,400 purchase price she and husband Verne Martell paid Dec. 22, 2006.

We have the full rundown on the Murkowski deal at TPMtv and a compilation of Laura McGann's reporting at TPMmuckraker.

FBI Director Robert Mueller is testifying this afternoon before the House Judiciary Committee. Spencer Ackerman is providing updates at TPMmuckraker. Among other things, Mueller is being asked about that late night meeting at John Ashcroft's hospital bedside. We'll have more on that soon.