WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney in New York, said Thursday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should get "the benefit of the doubt" in the uproar over the firings of federal prosecutors.
"The president has addressed it," Giuliani said. "The attorney general's an honorable man. He's a decent man. He should be given a chance to explain and everybody should sort of give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to explain."
Republicans and Democrats alike have questioned Gonzales' leadership and some have called for him to resign as Congress investigates whether the firings of nine prosecutors over the past year were politically motivated.
President Bush insists that the firings were appropriate and is standing by the country's top law enforcement official. Democrats argue the prosecutors were forced out for political reasons.
"We should try to remove on both sides as much of the partisanship as possible," Giuliani said in his first public comments on the prosecutor firings. His remarks followed a speech to the National Newspaper Association.
The former New York City mayor leads in national popularity polls for the GOP nomination. His top rivals for the nomination include Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
In Iowa last week, McCain said it was too soon to call for Gonzales' resignation. "I'd like to give him his chance to appear before the Congress and respond to the allegations," McCain said. Romney also has urged caution, saying: "We collect facts and interview witnesses before we convict. And we don't have that information yet."
On another matter, Giuliani suggested that he was likely to make his client list from his lucrative business interests public only if the disclosure is required by federal law.
"Those are all things that have to get decided when you do the financial disclosure form and you see what that requires," he said. "We'll see what the financial disclosure form requires."
Over the past week, Giuliani has faced questions about his law firm's relationship with Citgo Petroleum Corp., which is ultimately controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Bracewell & Giuliani of Houston has represented Citgo before the Texas legislature. The firm has had a contract with Citgo since before Giuliani joined it, and Giuliani's campaign said he does no lobbying for Citgo.