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  Republicans Go Negative -- On One AnotherApril 27, 2007 23:21 When it comes to Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment -- "Thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republicans" -- GOP presidential candidates seem to be losing their religion.

Republican candidates have been speaking a lot of ill -- sometimes quite directly.

"Governor [Mitt] Romney, his views ... have been moderate to liberal in [the] North, in the Northeast, and it's all on videotape," former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said on "The Situation Room" recently. "And now he's trying to shift to be a conservative."

At a Republican dinner in Iowa this month, Gilmore took on his party's front-runners collectively, saying, "Rudy McRomney is not a conservative."

The former Massachusetts governor's response? He said his rivals -- Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- have changed their minds on issues, too.

And talk about speaking ill of a fellow Republican, President Bush is not off limits:

"We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well," McCain said. "We have made mistakes, and we have paid grievously for them."

Bush is very unpopular. Conservatives want to make the point that it's not because he's a conservative. Instead, they say, it's because his administration has wandered away from conservative principles.

Republicans are supposed to be disciplined and on message. Not this time.
  Candidates Take Offense At Giuliani's RemarkApril 26, 2007 11:33 Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, drew a swift and angry reaction Wednesday from his prospective Democratic rivals for president for asserting that the election of a Democrat in 2008 would put the country back "on defense" against terrorism, prolonging the global conflict with violent extremists and costing the nation additional lives.

The leading Democratic presidential candidates challenged Giuliani's claim that their party cannot keep the country safe and accused him of attempting to divide the country over what many consider the paramount issue of the coming campaign.

Giuliani's comments at a county Republican dinner in New Hampshire on Tuesday night reignited a political argument that was at the center of the presidential campaign four years ago and that echoes now in the debate between President Bush and congressional Democrats over the administration's Iraq policy.
  Goodling Gets Immunity; Gonzales Gets More QuestionsApril 26, 2007 10:34 Frustrated with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' incomplete explanation of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, members of two congressional committees demanded that Gonzales submit to more questions about his handling of the ousters.

The development came as a House of Representatives committee voted Wednesday to grant immunity to a former top aide to Gonzales to compel her testimony. Monica Goodling, the aide, had said she would invoke her constitutional right not to testify for fear of incriminating herself.

Gonzales has struggled to repair his credibility as Democrats and Republicans continue to hammer him for his conflicting statements about the Justice Department's targeting of prosecutors.

Although Gonzales spent weeks preparing for testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he couldn't answer a litany of questions about a plan to target top prosecutors who'd fallen out of favor with the administration. In recent days, several Democrats and Republicans have called for Gonzales' resignation, although President Bush has reaffirmed his support for his top law enforcement official. Gonzales has said he won't resign.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee's ranking Republican, urged Gonzales in a letter Wednesday to provide more information related to his knowledge and involvement in the firings.
  Kucinich: Cheney Deceived Americans And Must Be ImpeachedApril 25, 2007 09:08 After hinting for weeks that he would initiate impeachment actions against the Bush administration, Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich this afternoon introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kucinich said Congress should oust Cheney from office for purposely fabricating intelligence in the runup to the Iraq war, thereby deceiving some in Congress and the public into believing war was necessary. He also said Cheney manipulated intelligence about purported links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida, the group responsible for 9/11.

And more recently, said Kucinich, unveiling his three articles of impeachment at a news conference across from the Capitol, Cheney threatened aggression against Iran when Iran has not threatened the United States.

"This goes beyond partisan terms," Kucinich said. "This becomes a question of who we are as a people."

Cheney's office expressed no alarm at the prospect of Kucinich succeeding.

"The vice president still remains focused on the serious issues facing our nation," said Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn.

Kucinich's actions were greeted warmly by pro-impeachment activists. But some political analysts saw his impeachment resolution as a play to win broader liberal support for his own White House quest. Kucinich's presidential bid, his second, has met with low fundraising and polling numbers.

  White House Faces Federal InvestigationApril 24, 2007 17:41 The obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel generally confines itself to monitoring the activities of a relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the unit is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than seven years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees throughout the government attuned to GOP political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush administration.

First, the new inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.
  Raids Renew Ethics Worries For Troubled GOPApril 23, 2007 09:57 The abrupt resignation last week of two Republican House members from their sensitive committee assignments have thrust lingering legal and ethics issues back into the limelight, potentially complicating GOP efforts to retake Congress next year.

On successive days, Wednesday and Thursday, Reps. John Doolittle, R-Calif., and Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., disclosed FBI raids on their homes and businesses, proclaiming their innocence but exposing their legal jeopardy. The announcements were the most recent in a series of developments that have kept the focus on old ethical and legal clouds that helped chase the Republican Party from power on Capitol Hill.

Among those developments, two other lawmakers face possible ethics investigations amid allegations that they pressured a U.S. attorney in New Mexico to indict Democrats before last year’s fall elections. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., under investigation by the FBI for a series of land deals, is now facing Democratic ads alleging he lied about a land sale that he declined to pay taxes on.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., still faces FBI scrutiny of his work as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and this month, his campaign filings showed he has wracked up $892,951.69 since July in legal fees. And for the first time, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., reported significant legal fees — $15,620.60 — in his campaign filing this month, as he tries to stave off accusations that he used taxpayer-funded congressional staff and resources to do political work.

“Everybody’s kind of a little bit numb,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. “There’s this, ‘what else can happen now?’ feeling going around here.”

The ethics issue burst back into focus with the FBI raids involving Doolittle and Renzi. Doolittle had been trying to retool his battered image when he disclosed that the FBI had raided his family’s northern Virginia home. Both he and his wife have been tied to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and he has admitted winning funds for a defense contractor linked to the bribery conviction of then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif. Under pressure from GOP leaders, Doolittle quickly gave up his coveted seat on the House Appropriations Committee while his lawyers said he had done nothing wrong.
  Vermont Senate Adopts Resolution To Impeach BushApril 20, 2007 13:43 Vermont's state senate passed a largely symbolic resolution on Friday calling on the U.S. Congress to impeach President George W. Bush over his handling of the unpopular Iraq war.

Reflecting growing grass-roots anger over the war, the 16 to 9 vote urges Vermont's representatives in Washington to introduce a resolution in Congress requiring the House Judiciary Committee to start impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Vermont's congressional delegation has shown no serious interest in the idea, and the new Democratic-controlled Congress has also steered clear of the subject.

But activists in the proudly independent state known for autumn foliage, maple syrup and dairy farms hope to persuade Vermont's House of Representatives to adopt a similar resolution to keep up pressure on their congressional leaders.

If Vermont's House follows, rules written by former President Thomas Jefferson to govern the U.S. House could set impeachment proceedings in motion. According to section 603 of Jefferson's Manual, a state legislature can introduce impeachment charges to Congress.
  Dishonest AG Gonzales "Going Down In Flames"April 20, 2007 13:33 White House insiders say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is "going down in flames".

The sources, involved in administration discussions about Gonzales, told White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux that two senior level White House aides who heard the testimony described Gonzales as "going down in flames," "not doing himself any favors," and "predictable."

During his testimony, Gonzales apologized for the manner in which the attorneys were fired, but added that, "nothing improper occurred."

The fired prosecutors "deserve better from me and the Department of Justice which they served for many years."

One prominent Republican described the testimony as watching "clubbing a baby seal."

One Justice Department official echoed what many are saying inside the White House regarding Gonzales keeping his job---"it all hangs on one guy---the President."

But these sources acknowledge no one knows what the president will do.
  Republican Senator Calls For Gonzales To QuitApril 19, 2007 16:21 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confronted a fresh call for his resignation from a fellow Republican Thursday as he struggled to survive a bipartisan Senate challenge to his credibility in the case of eight fired prosecutors.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn told Gonzales that the situation was handled incompetently and said there should be consequences.

"The communication was atrocious. It was inconsistent -- it's generous to say that there was misstatements; it's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered," Coburn said.

"And I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

Coburn is the first Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to call for Gonzales' resignation.

Gonzales disagreed, and said he didn't think resigning would put the controversy to rest.

Earlier, Gonzales defended his leadership of the Justice Department as free from partisan politics.

"We've prosecuted members of Congress; we've prosecuted governors, Republicans," Gonzales said in response to a question from Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wisconsin.
  Republican Lawmaker Resigns From Panel Amid ProbeApril 19, 2007 16:08 Rep. John Doolittle, whose house was searched by the FBI in an influence-peddling investigation, said Thursday he will step down temporarily from the House Appropriations Committee.

The announcement by the nine-term California Republican came one day after the disclosure that agents had raided his home in Oakton, Va. In the search last Friday, the FBI had a warrant for information connected with a fundraising business run by Doolittle's wife, Julie, that had done work for convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"I understand how the most recent circumstances may lead some to question my tenure on the Appropriations Committee," Doolittle wrote House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"Therefore, I feel it may be in the best interest of the House that I take a temporary leave with seniority from this committee until this matter can be resolved."

  Gonzales Faces Tough Questions On Attorney FiringsApril 19, 2007 10:13 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced heated questions from Republican Sen. Arlen Specter as the Senate Judiciary Committee began a hearing Thursday over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

The Pennsylvania senator focused on Gonzales' contention that he had limited involvement in the firings.

Specter went through a list of meetings Gonzales attended where the topic was discussed, then asked, "Do you think it's honest to say that you had only 'limited' involvement?'"

Gonzales later replied, "It was limited involvement," and he said the discussions of U.S. attorneys such as Carol Lam from Southern California were only part of his job as U.S. attorney. She was one of those who lost her job.

He said any talks about Lam with senior staff stemmed from complaints he had received about her performance.

Specter pressed Gonzales on earlier statements concerning the extent of his involvement in the firings.

"I'm asking you, do you prepare for your press conference?" Specter said. "Were you prepared when you said you weren't involved in any deliberations?"

"Senator, i've already conceded that I misspoke at that press conference," Gonzales replied. "There was nothing intentional."

Earlier, in his opening statement, Gonzales apologized to the eight fired prosecutors and their families, saying, "They deserve better from me and the Department of Justice which they served for many years."
  Republican Rep. Doolittle Denies Wrongdoing After FBI SearchApril 19, 2007 09:04 An FBI search of Rep. John Doolittle's Virginia home has turned up the heat on the embattled congressman, who barely won re-election last November after being linked to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

An attorney for Doolittle, a Republican from Roseville (Placer County), said Wednesday that the FBI search last Friday focused on records of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company run by Doolittle's wife, Julie. Julie Doolittle worked closely with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last year to charges that included conspiracy to bribe public officials.

Doolittle, 56, denied wrongdoing in a statement released Wednesday after news of the search became public.

"My wife has been cooperating with the FBI and the Justice Department for almost three years and that cooperation is going to continue in the future,'' he said. "I support my wife 100 percent and fully expect that the truth will prevail.''

Other Republicans weren't nearly so confident.

"It's difficult to overstate the seriousness of the FBI executing search warrants at an elected official's home,'' said Kevin Spillane, a Sacramento-based Republican consultant. "It's a catastrophic political event for any member of Congress.''
  Ex-GOP Representative Becomes A DemocratApril 18, 2007 10:01 Pete McCloskey, the former Peninsula congressman who challenged then-Rep. Richard Pombo in the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District last year, has reregistered as a Democrat.

The 79-year-old ex-Marine, now a farmer in Rumsey (Yolo County), said in an e-mail to supporters that the current Republican Party no longer shares his ethical and environmental values, a central theme of his quixotic bid to unseat Pombo.

"I finally concluded it was a fraud for me to remain a member of this modern Republican Party," McCloskey wrote. "My favorite spokesmen have become senators Jim Webb (Democrat of Virginia) and Barack Obama (Democrat of Illinois)."

McCloskey said that his California ancestors had been Republicans since 1859 and that he admired former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, but he was still abandoning the party he joined nearly 59 years ago.

"The bureaucracy has mushroomed in size and power. The budget deficits have become astronomical. Our historical separation of church and state has been blurred. We have seen a succession of ethical scandals, congressmen taking bribes and abuse of power by both the Republican House leadership and the highest appointees of the White House," McCloskey wrote.

"And, so it was, that while at the Woodland courthouse the other day, passing by the registrar's office, I filled out the form to re-register as a Democrat."
  Contractor: Hiring Of Wolfowitz Friend OrderedApril 18, 2007 09:59 The U.S. Defense Department ordered a contractor to hire a World Bank employee and girlfriend of then-Pentagon No. 2 Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 for work related to Iraq, the contractor said on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, said the Defense Department's policy office directed the company to enter a subcontract with Shaha Riza, under which she spent a month studying ways to form a government in Iraq.

Wolfowitz, a key Iraq war architect who left the Pentagon in 2005 to become president of the World Bank, is already under fire for overseeing a high-paying promotion for Riza after he took the helm of the poverty-fighting global lender.

Senior Democratic congressmen and other critics have pressed demands for his resignation, saying his actions have undermined the campaign against corruption in the developing world that has been a hallmark of his World Bank tenure.

SAIC said Riza's subcontract lasted from April 25 to May 31, 2003. She was paid expenses but no salary during her trip to Iraq, at her request, according to the contractor.
  House Panel Eyes Immunity GrantApril 17, 2007 09:51 The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on whether to grant Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former counsel immunity from prosecution and force her to testify about the firings of eight federal prosecutors.

"I am hopeful we can approve immunity so that we can schedule her to testify as soon as possible and begin to clear up the many inconsistencies and gaps surrounding this matter," Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a statement Tuesday.

A two-thirds vote of the panel is required to approve the resolution, which would direct the House counsel to apply to U.S. District Court for a grant of immunity for Monica Goodling, Conyers' statement said.

Goodling's lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Goodling, Gonzales former counsel and liaison to the White House, has refused to testify under her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She and her lawyer have suggested that congressional Democrats may have set up a perjury trap.

The announcement shows Democrats are eager to press ahead with their probe of whether the Bush administration ousted the federal prosecutors in an effort to influence corruption investigations in ways that would help Republicans.
  White House E-Mail Raises QuestionApril 16, 2007 13:23 The uproar over the firing of eight federal prosecutors has spawned a new controversy at the White House over questionable e-mail accounts and lost presidential records.

Aides to President Bush improperly used Republican Party-sponsored e-mail accounts for official business, the administration acknowledges, and lost an undetermined number of e-mails in the process.

The "mistake," as the White House is calling it, was discovered inadvertently through Congress' ongoing probe of the administration's dismissal of the U.S. attorneys.

In the thousands of pages of documents the Justice Department has given to congressional investigators were e-mails disclosing that at least one White House official used his party-supplied, non-governmental e-mail account to help plan the firings.

But the issue potentially has broader implications than the outcry about the dismissals.
  Cheney Plays Nuclear CardApril 16, 2007 08:59 Who is playing politics? The US Congress who passes legislation desired by the people they represent? Or the presidential administration who sends the VP on the talk show tour to protest that legislation?

Vice President Dick Cheney, often called upon to deliver the administration’s toughest talk about the wars abroad, now says this about the threat of terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb in an American city: “It’s a very real threat ... something that we have to worry about and defeat every single day.”

Cheney’s warning about what’s at stake for the U.S. in withdrawing from Iraq, delivered in a TV interview Sunday and coupled with a speech in Chicago on Friday and a war statement that President Bush plans to make today, is part of an escalating chorus of pressure that the White House hopes to exert on Democrats to approve a new war-spending bill.

Vowing to veto any spending bill that includes a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, which the Senate and House have approved in varying forms, the Bush administration believes it ultimately will win a “clean” bill – predicting that Democratic leaders will buckle after Bush vetoes their bill.

“I’m willing to bet” the Democrats eventually will concede, Cheney said in an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” recorded the day before.
  Subpoenas vowed over 'lost' e-mailsApril 13, 2007 09:06

The White House said yesterday that it could not find an unknown number of e-mails written by Karl Rove and at least 21 other officials, including some correspondence that has been sought in connection with the firings of eight US attorneys, prompting Democrats to express doubt that the e-mails were accidentally lost.

The White House did not say how many e-mails were lost or whether any pertained to the firings. But an independent group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said yesterday that it had researched the matter and believes that the White House has lost more than 5 million e-mails sent between 2003 and 2005.

"We are trying to understand to the best of our ability the universe of the e-mails that were potentially lost," White House spokes wo man Dana Perino said yesterday. She said the White House would investigate whether the e-mails could be retrieved, adding, "We've changed the [e-mail] policy so that we can make sure that this doesn't happen again."

  House Subpoenas More U.S. Attorney FilesApril 10, 2007 20:03 House Democrats on Tuesday subpoenaed more documents from the Justice Department, ratcheting up efforts to obtain unedited copies of hundreds of documents pertaining to personnel matters surrounding last year’s dismissals of eight United States attorneys.

The new demand for more documents came as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales spent nearly five hours working with aides in preparation for his appearance next Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Defenders and critics alike say the hearing could determine whether he remains in office.

In addition, Mr. Gonzales announced a significant personnel decision, naming as his new chief of staff Kevin J. O’Connor, the United States attorney in Connecticut. Mr. O’Connor, 39, will at least temporarily hold both jobs. His selection appeared to be an effort by Mr. Gonzales to solidify his standing among prosecutors who have been restive in the aftermath of the dismissals.

Justice Department officials said the new subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee was “unfortunate” and sought documents, already the subject of a separate request by the Senate, for information about United States attorneys who are still on the job. Brian Roehrkasse, a department spokesman, said many of the documents, in unedited form, had already been reviewed at the department by Congressional staff members.

  Gonzales Urged To Consider ResigningApril 09, 2007 17:06 Newt Gingrich said Sunday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should consider resigning as the former House speaker joined a list of Republicans who say the botched firing of U.S. attorneys has destroyed Gonzales' credibility.

``The public would be much better served to have another attorney general,'' said Gingrich, who is considering a possible 2008 presidential run. ``I cannot imagine how he's going to be effective for the rest of his administration. They're going to be involved in endless hearings.''

Gonzales, a former White House counsel who became attorney general in 2005, is scheduled to testify April 17 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the firing of eight federal prosecutors. It is a congressional showdown believed to be a make-or-break appearance for Gonzales.

The committee also has pledged to compel the testimony of White House officials such as Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers to determine the extent of White House involvement. On Friday, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, abruptly quit after telling Congress she would not testify.
  '5th Amendment' Gonzales Aide Resigns Amid Hearings, Monica Goodling Wouldn't Testify Before A House Panel About Firings Of 8 U.S. AttorneysApril 06, 2007 16:49 A senior Justice Department aide and White House liaison who refused to testify before a House committee investigating the firings of eight U.S. attorneys has resigned.

Monica Goodling, who worked in the Justice Department for the last five years, most recently as senior counsel to embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, submitted a letter of resignation effective April 7.

The terse text of her letter to Gonzales, which gave no reasons for her departure, expressed her honor at having worked at Justice. "I am hereby submitting my resignation to the office of the Attorney General, effective April 7, 2007. It has been an honor to have served at the Department of Justice for the past five years," it read.

The letter ended: "May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America."

Goodling is at the center of the controversy because, as the liaison between the Justice Department and the White House, she may be best suited to explain how deeply Karl Rove and other members of President Bush's political team might have been involved in the firings. Congress also wants her to testify on Gonzales' role in light of his shifting explanations.

A Senate panel has authorized a subpoena for her, but none yet has been issued.

  Bush Fighting To Stay RelevantApril 06, 2007 15:43 With George W. Bush struggling to stay relevant in his final 22 months in the White House, his administration is looking more and more like the incredible shrinking presidency.

He finds himself increasingly hemmed in by public approval ratings stuck in the low 30 percent range, a hostile Democratic majority in Congress and an unpopular war that has eroded his credibility at home and abroad.

"The real danger is that the president becomes politically irrelevant, that he presides instead of leads," said Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.

Cracks have also formed in his inner circle, and many fellow Republicans are ever more skeptical of his ability to help them hold onto the presidency in the 2008 election.

At the same time, Bush's attempt to use the megaphone of his office to shape national debate is increasingly being drowned out by public disenchantment with his Iraq policy and doubts over his leadership, analysts say.
  Another Recess Appointment Hurts Chances for Social Security OverhaulApril 06, 2007 14:27 President Bush’s plans to give a recess appointment to his choice for the No. 2 spot at the Social Security Administration could derail any chance of a Social Security overhaul, a top Senate Democrat said Wednesday.

Bush announced that he would name Andrew Biggs to the position of deputy commissioner, bypassing Senate confirmation.

Biggs is a supporter of Bush’s comatose plan to create individual investment accounts in Social Security, a proposal rejected by virtually every elected Democrat and a sizable minority of Republicans.

Some lawmakers, though, are still considering other changes to address Social Security’s long-term fiscal problems. One of them, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the appointment of Biggs dimmed any chance for success on that front.

“Prospects for getting real Social Security reform anytime soon just took a big hit with this recess appointment,” Baucus said in a statement.

Biggs is now associate commissioner of the SSA’s Office of Retirement Policy. Before joining the administration, he was deputy director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Privatization — now called the Project on Social Security Choice. The Cato Institute is a strong advocate for replacing some or all of Social Security’s guaranteed retirement benefit with individual investment accounts.

In 2005, Bush pressed Congress to overhaul Social Security with individual accounts. The idea was blocked by congressional Democrats, who were nearly unanimously opposed to individual accounts. Most Democrats believe the accounts would be too risky for retirees and would cost too much to establish — trillions of dollars over decades, according to the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts.
  Dems Want Review Of Bush'S Recess AppointmentApril 06, 2007 14:26 Democrats called for an investigation Thursday into whether President Bush acted illegally in appointing Sam Fox ambassador to Belgium.

A day earlier, Bush named Republican fundraiser Fox to the post as a recess appointment — a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress, where Democrats had derailed his nomination.

"We view the recess appointment of Mr. Fox as a clear abuse of the President's recess appointment power," three Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing agency.

The senators — Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania — also asked if Fox's appointment could be terminated if a Senate vote rejected him.

Democrats have denounced Fox for his donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign. The group's TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a factor in the Massachusetts Democrat's election loss.

Recognizing Fox did not have enough support for Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last week. On Wednesday, with the Senate on a one-week break, the president used his power to make recess appointments to put Fox in the job without Congress' blessing.

  Gonzales Gears Up For 'Make Or Break' TestimonyApril 03, 2007 11:40 His job on the line, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has shelved plans for a family vacation and begun prepping for a showdown with senators over the firings of federal prosecutors.

An appearance next week in front of a Senate panel that oversees Justice Department spending is shaping up as a trial run for Gonzales' scheduled April 17 testimony to a separate Senate committee investigating the eight dismissals.

The White House said Monday that Gonzales' testimony cannot come too fast for the besieged attorney general to explain his previous statements about the firings, which Democrats contend were politically motivated.

"Look, the attorney general thinks it's in everyone's best interest -- and we agree with him -- that he be able to get up and talk to Congress sooner than later," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

"I think the American people would like to see us resolve this, so that we can move on and work on other things. So we'd like to see the hearing moved up to next week," Perino said.