Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he has done nothing improper in the firings of eight federal prosecutors in testimony prepared for his appearance before a Senate panel widely viewed as a last chance to save his job.
"I have nothing to hide," Gonzales said in a statement released Sunday.
But two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Gonzales has an uphill battle in convincing the public he can lead the Justice Department.
Two days before Gonzales is to make a showdown appearance before Congress, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said none of Gonzales' public statements so far has convinced him that the department's ouster of eight U.S. attorneys was justified.
In an op-ed Sunday in the Washington Post, Gonzales apologized for the handling of the matter, including a series of misstatements about his exact role that he acknowledged "created confusion." But Gonzales maintained that "nothing improper" occurred.
"Those statements are very conclusory," said Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "He's got a steep hill to climb. He's going to be successful only if he deals with the facts."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another member of the Judiciary Committee, said Gonzales has "an uphill struggle to re-establish his credibility with the committee given prior statements." Still, Graham said he believed Gonzales could save his job.
"He needs to explain what he did and why he did it," Graham said. "There are three our four different versions of his role in this, and he needs to bring clarity to what he did and why he did it."
Tuesday expected to make or break Gonzales
Gonzales, a former White House counsel who became attorney general in 2005, will testify Tuesday before the committee, in what will likely be a make-or-break appearance for Gonzales.
Specter said Gonzales must explain the firing the U.S. attorneys case by case — and convince senators they were not done to interfere with or promote ongoing criminal investigations aimed at benefiting Republicans.
If he is unable to do so, Gonzales should consider reinstating the fired prosecutors, Specter said.
While a president has a right to replace U.S. attorneys for no reason at all, "you can't replace them for a bad reason," he said.
"The No. 1 question is, is he capable of administering the Department of Justice, did he have enough hands on to know what's happening? Can he explain why these individuals were asked to resign and justify the reasons for doing so?" Specter said.
Specter spoke on ABC's "This Week," and Graham appeared on "Fox News Sunday."