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Gonzales's testimony leaves senators frustrated

Not recalling key dates and meetings, the US attorney general says he had a 'limited' role in the controversial firing of eight federal attorneys.

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Key senators from both parties appear to have a message for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: You haven't regained our confidence.

At a tough April 19 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, lawmaker after lawmaker reacted with various degrees of disbelief of or frustration with the attorney general's explanations of events surrounding the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors.

Mr. Gonzales's appearance before the committee has been widely viewed in Washington as a crucial point in his long struggle to get past the attorney firing furor.

He has already stayed in his job longer than many pundits have predicted he might, given the intensity of the political storm. But even his chief backer – President Bush – has said that Gonzales has repair work to do on his relationship with Capitol Hill.

At Thursday's hearing, many senators seemed especially frustrated with Gonzales's continued insistence that he had played a minor role in the firing process – something that's been disputed in public testimony from other current and former Department of Justice witnesses.

"I am not satisfied with his answers," said panel chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont after three hours of testimony.

Gonzales's protestations of uninvolvement are "significantly if not totally at variance with the facts," said ranking minority member and former chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania.

Gonzales did say that he had discussions with White House political adviser Karl Rove and Mr. Bush himself that dealt with GOP complaints that voter-fraud cases weren't being pursued by a number of US attorneys, including David Iglesias in New Mexico.

In addition, the attorney general had told other Justice Department officials that US Attorney Carol Lam, in San Diego, needed to bring more immigration cases.

But these actions did not constitute involvement in the attorney dismissal process, insisted Gonzales, despite the fact that both Mr. Iglesias and Ms. Lam were among those fired.

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