Washington — The White House and a key Republican senator reaffirmed support Saturday for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even as Democrats questioned his credibility for apparently misrepresenting his role in firing eight federal prosecutors.
Critics said the latest document disclosure - more than 280 pages of e-mails, calendar notations and other documents sent to Congress late Friday - bolstered their case for Gonzales' ouster.
Yet one longtime ally who largely has kept quiet about the attorney general's fate issued a statement of support.
"He has always been straightforward and honest with me," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "So, unless there is clear evidence that the attorney general deliberately lied or misled Congress, I see no reason to call for his resignation."
Gonzales has said he participated in no discussions and saw no memos about plans to carry out the firings on Dec. 7 that Democrats contend were politically motivated.
His schedule, however, shows he attended at least one hourlong meeting, on Nov. 27, where he approved a detailed plan to execute the prosecutors' firings.
Democrats said the new documents appear to show Gonzales was more involved than he claimed earlier.
"How much scrutiny do we have to put behind everything the attorney general says?" the House Judiciary Committee chairman said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I know he's busy, and he could have done things that he didn't remember, but we're going to give him as much rope as he needs," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Nov. 27 meeting "widens the gap between the evolving explanations the Bush administration has offered and the facts that keep coming to light."
But White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the documents do not conflict with Gonzales' earlier statements.
"The president continues to have confidence in the attorney general," Perino said. "As the Justice Department said last night, these new documents are not inconsistent with its previous statements."
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Saturday there are no plans for Gonzales to resign.
Also, several Republicans in both the House and Senate said they needed to learn more about how closely he was involved in the firings. Still stopping short of calling for Gonzales' resignation, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., "thinks it's better to have an attorney general that Congress has confidence in," spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
At issue were statements Gonzales made at a March 13 news conference that appear to conflict with what the documents show.