• This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," March 17, 2007.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is under fire for what Democrats are calling a political purge. But how unprecedented was the dismissal of those eight U.S. attorneys? Just ask Hillary Clinton.

    And from A to Z, Al Qaeda's number 3 confesses to planning the 9/11 attacks and dozens more. What impact will Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession have on the debate over enemy combatants?

    Our panel weighs in, after these headlines.


    GIGOT: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    Fallout continued this week over the Justice Department's firing of eight U.S. attorneys, with Democrats and some Republicans calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

    Joseph di Genova is a former United States attorney for the District of Columbia. He joins me now from Washington.

    Joe di Genova, welcome to the program. Good to have you here.

    JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Nice to be here, Paul.

    GIGOT: U.S. attorneys are political appointees. They're prosecutors appointed by the president to serve at his pleasure. So presumably, the president can dismiss them. What did the administration do wrong in this case?

    DIGENOVA: They have the right to fire them. They don't have a right to smear them or to give inconsistent and inaccurate answers to Congress about why they were removed.

    I think the real crime here is not a violation of Title 18. The crime is the clumsiness and the hand-handedness with which this was handled by the Justice Department.

    I think that's really what — this was handled so unprofessionally that now they're — this would have been fine if the Republicans were still in control of the Congress. But they are not any more. The power has changed.

    And as a result, Democrats are in control. They can ask tough questions. And subpoenas start to fly. That's why you have to have adults in charge at the White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department.

    GIGOT: So there's nothing wrong, in your view, when the president of the United States, who has won reelection as the president did in 2004 and in 2005 — they had some discussions in the White House and the Justice Department about replacing officials. There's nothing wrong with the president saying, "You know, I want to replace a half dozen 10, 12, even 20 or more U.S. attorneys?

    DIGENOVA: Absolutely nothing legally wrong with that at all. Absolutely none.

    GIGOT: So is it just a political issue then, that you have to be more worried...

    DIGENOVA: I think, at this point, it is.

    GIGOT: OK.