President Bush brushed aside calls for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, describing him as “an honest, honorable man in whom I have confidence.” But it has not silenced demands that Gonzales step down.

People for the American Way is circulating a petition citing Gonzales’ role in backing “George W. Bush’s abuses of the law and disregard for the Constitution” such as warrantless spying, stripping detainees of habeas corpus rights, undermining civil rights, and torture and abuse in the “judicial black hole that is Guantanamo Bay.”

Gonzales’ Senate Judiciary Committee testimony April 13 stirred wide disgust when he pleaded more than 50 times that he could not recall meetings with White House and Justice Department officials on removing eight U.S. attorneys. The eight were targeted by Republicans for insufficient loyalty to Bush policies and lacking zeal in prosecuting alleged Democratic voter fraud.

Brian J. Foley, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, said Gonzales’ testimony exposed him as a lawyer with a clientele of one. “I don’t think Gonzales is fit for the job. I don’t think he ever was,” Foley told the World by phone. “He views the president essentially as his client in what he perceives as a sharp battle with an opposing party: the American people. He has worked to increase the unchecked powers of the president at the expense of the rights of the people.”

In the firings of David Iglesias, U.S. attorney for New Mexico, and John McKay, U.S. attorney for Seattle, one reason cited was that they did not push voter fraud prosecutions just before last fall’s elections. Commented Foley, “There is the Republican version of ‘voter fraud,’ and then there is the bigger problem of voter fraud such as the fixing of voting machines, not informing large numbers of voters about voting places and times. There is no Republican investigation of that fraud.”

Referring to Florida’s then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris who denied more than 100,000 voters, mostly African American, their ballot rights in 2000, Foley said it “all fits in” with the Bush administration’s policy of “trying to make it harder for the American people to vote.”

Lew Moye, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists St. Louis chapter, served as AFL-CIO “election protection” coordinator last November. “We faced some heavy voter suppression tactics,” he told the World in a phone interview. Even though the courts had thrown out a law requiring that voters present a photo ID, “the Republicans tried to convince voters that it was still a requirement,” Moye said. “There should be an investigation of Gonzales’ involvement in that, violating people’s voting rights. I think this relates to the Republicans’ efforts to suppress African American or minority voters because of their strong opposition to Republican policies.”

A five-year Justice Department nationwide “voter fraud” dragnet ordered by Gonzales and Bush strategist Karl Rove netted only 86 convictions. Most involved people who mistakenly registered or voted not understanding they were not eligible. They include Usman Ali, a legal 10-year resident of Tallahassee, Fla., who was deported to Pakistan because he mistakenly filled out a voter registration form while renewing his driver’s license. He was summarily deported even though he did not actually vote. His wife and daughter, both U.S. citizens, were forced into exile with him.

Kimberly Prude, an African American grandmother in Milwaukee, joined a 2004 march led by Al Sharpton to City Hall, where she registered to vote. She later sent in an absentee ballot. She is an ex-offender on probation. When she realized her mistake, she called the Election Board to rescind her vote. She was told it was not necessary.

Despite her apology, she was convicted and sent to jail. She has been incarcerated now more than a year.

Wisconsin Green Party Co-Chair Ruth Weill called it “a case of Republican Party bait and switch.” In 2000 and 2004, the Bush administration “was accused of severe voter intimidation of Blacks and Latinos, so now they defend themselves by accusing Blacks and Latinos of ‘vote fraud’,” she told the World.

Prude, she said, “obviously had no malice. She made a mistake. It is beyond ridiculous that she is in jail.”

The Justice Department “should be ashamed of themselves,” Weill said.

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