Washington Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confidently deflected House Democrats' demands Thursday for details in the firings of U.S. attorneys, appearing ever more likely to survive accusations that the dismissals were politically motivated.
Republican lawmakers rushed to Gonzales' defense as the attorney general denied anew that the firings last year were improper.
The mostly muted five-hour hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee was a sharp contrast to Gonzales' sometimes testy appearance three weeks ago when Senate Republicans questioned his competence to run the Justice Department. One senator at that session joined a small GOP chorus saying he should step down.
"I will work as hard as I can, working with this committee and working with DOJ employees, to reassure the American people that this department is focused on doing its job," Gonzales said Thursday.
That did not satisfy exasperated Democrats, who accused Gonzales of being evasive.
"Your reputation is on the line, Mr. Attorney General. What do you have to say for yourself?" asked Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., adding that the "buck stops at the top."
"I accept responsibility," Gonzales answered.
President Bush steadfastly has stood by Gonzales, his longtime counselor and friend. Even career Justice Department staffers angered by the attorney general's response to the firings acknowledge Gonzales appears to have beaten back calls to leave.