WASHINGTON - Bolstered by a fresh show of support from President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sought Monday to move beyond calls for his resignation and lingering questions about his credibility after the firings of federal prosecutors.
Critics reluctantly conceded that Gonzales was likely to weather the political storm. But many scoffed at Bush's claim of having more confidence in his attorney general after Gonzales' Senate testimony last week, which was filled with memory lapses.
Gonzales, speaking at a news conference about identity theft, said he was staying at the Justice Department. He declined to say for how long.
"As long as I think that I can be effective and the president believes that I should continue to be at the head of the Department of Justice, I'll continue serving as the attorney general," Gonzales said.
He added: "Obviously, we'll be working with Congress to reassure them that we've identified that mistakes have been made here and we're taking steps to address them. But I can't just be focused on the U.S. attorneys situation."
His comments came hours after Bush described Gonzales as "an honest, honorable man in whom I have confidence."
Later in the day, Bush issued a statement praising Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Majoras for their work on combatting identity theft.
Last month, Bush had said Gonzales needed to repair his credibility - and the Justice Department's - with Congress as lawmakers investigate whether the firings were politically motivated. In sworn testimony last week, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee 71 times he could not recall meetings, memos or other details about the firings.
On Monday, Bush said Gonzales "went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."
"And as the investigation, the hearings went forward, it was clear that the attorney general broke no law, did no wrongdoing," Bush said. "And some senators didn't like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could."
Senators continued to lambaste Gonzales' credibility but conceded he was unlikely to leave.
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, top Republican on the Judiciary panel, said Gonzales' continued tenure ultimately hurts the Justice Department, the Bush administration and the GOP.
"As long as he's the attorney general, I will continue to deal with him," Specter told reporters in Harrisburg, Pa.