Bush Names White House Counsel Gonzales to Succeed Ashcroft

Gonzales still needs confirmation from Senate, but lawmakers indications are positive

The gospel-singing son of a minister, Ashcroft is a fierce conservative who doesn't drink, smoke or dance. His detractors said he gave religion too prominent a role at the Justice Department _ including optional prayer meetings with staff before each work day. He has also been a willing lightning rod for critics who said his policies for thwarting terrorists infringed on the rights of innocent people.

Ashcroft championed many of the most controversial government actions following the Sept. 11 attacks, most notably the USA Patriot Act. It bolstered FBI surveillance powers, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado for months. When there was a break in a terror case, he was the man at the lectern soberly informing the American people.

``The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved,'' he said in resignation letter to Bush, dated Nov. 2 -- Election Day.

McClellan said Bush got the letter that same day, before the results of the election were known.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., voiced pleasure Wednesday with Ashcroft's departure and exhorting Bush ``to make good on his promise of renewed bipartisan cooperation'' with Democrats.

Evans, Bush's 2000 campaign chairman and close friend of more than three decades, said he longed to return to Texas.

Bush was considering this year's campaign money man, Mercer Reynolds, for Evans' job. As national finance chairman for the Bush campaign, Reynolds raised more than $260 million to get him re-elected.