Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING

Day of Reckoning for Michael Vick; Alberto Gonzales Resigns

Aired August 27, 2007 - 07:58   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A day of reckoning for Michael Vick today. The NFL superstar is going to be in court today, where he's expected to plead guilty to charges in connection with a vicious dogfighting ring.
CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is live outside the courthouse in Richmond, Virginia. He's got more.

Are we expecting to actually hear something from Michael Vick today, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you'll certainly hear him say the magic word, "guilty," because he's got to literally enter his plea. But most federal judges ask for more than that from a defendant pleading guilty.

Most federal judges say, Mr. Defendant, tell me what you did. Why are you pleading guilty? And that will probably be the most interesting part of the guilty plea today, because Michael Vick's statement of facts in his guilty plea agreement, which was released last week, was a very heavily lawyered pieced of writing, and it wasn't precisely clear what role Michael Vick played.

Basically, he admitted to being kind of the financier of this dogfighting operation. But the judge may want to hear in his own words, what did you do? How involved were you? And that will certainly be interesting to hear.

ROBERTS: Is Michael Vick compelled to answer those questions?

TOOBIN: Absolutely, because the judge can say, fine, you don't want to tell me what you did? I'm not accept this guilty plea. I'll put this case down for a trial, we'll have a trial.

So, you know, when you agree to plead guilty, you give up your Fifth Amendment rights. You are throwing yourself on the mercy of the court.

ROBERTS: Hey, listen, when it comes to his NFL suspension, the NFL has really looked at the gambling side of this. The charge that he helped to finance the gambling, didn't necessarily participate in it himself, rather than the cruelty to animal aspect of this.

Any idea why they did that?

TOOBIN: Well, the NFL is very focused on illegal gambling, and it is explicitly part of the NFL players agreement that players can have no contact with gambling. So you can read in the plea agreement the efforts by the Vick lawyers to limit, to minimize his role in connection with the gambling.

I don't know how successful it was, because the way I read the plea agreement is, Vick put up all of the money that went towards the gambling. So I'm not sure he can really make a credible argument that he wasn't involved with gambling, but his lawyers at least were trying to make the best of an awful situation.

ROBERTS: You talk to football fans about this, Jeff, and the two questions that they have, how much money is he going to lose because of this? And will he ever be able to return to football?

TOOBIN: Well, I think both of those questions are unknown at this point. The Falcons, according to "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," have asked for or are about to ask for $22 million back. I mean, they are entitled to some of that money back at least. That's clear, because Vick, you know, committed a crime, he wasn't injured.

He sacrificed his ability to play football. So he is going to have to give up some portion of that money. It will probably be some sort of negotiated settlement less than that.

As for his future in football, I think the NFL is going to put off that decision for quite sometime. He is going to have to serve a prison sentence. We don't know how long, but he's going to have to serve and then show some contrition, show some efforts that he's made to make amends for his criminal conduct, and only then, I suspect, will Roger Goodell, the commissioner of football, start to consider how long his suspension will be.

One thing to keep in mind, why Roger Goodell might not be so favorably disposed, is that Vick lied to Goodell directly in answers to questions here. So Goodell probably is not thinking too highly of Michael Vick at the moment, even before he pled guilty.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll see how this begins to play out about two and a half hours of time. Vick expected in court at 10:30 Eastern there in Richmond.

Jeff Toobin, we'll look forward to more reporting from you on this. Thanks for joining us.

TOOBIN: I'll be there.

ROBERTS: Heidi.

COLLINS: Right now we want to get to this. Deadly fires are burning across half of an entire nation this morning.

Fire crews in Greece say they are now battling 170 infernos across the southern part of the country. Police are now offering $1 million for information on the arsonists in some of those fires. They may be responsible for killing dozens of people. And a wildfire burning in central Idaho has more than a thousand families out of their homes this morning near the Sun Valley ski resort. The winds are just too strong to fly tankers over the fire, so the resort is actually using its snow-making equipment to help fight it.

And in Ohio and across parts of the Midwest, the floodwaters are finally receding. Great news for them. It means the cleanup can now get under way.

The governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, says the level of devastation, though, just can't be exaggerated. In fact, FEMA is now assessing the damage and a federal state emergency will probably be declared in additional areas.

ROBERTS: Coming up to four minutes after the hour.

New this morning, the son of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in serious condition today after a spectacular single car crash. Take a look at the -- oh, look at that.

Firefighters had to extricate 17-year-old Nick Bollea and another passenger from Bollea's Toyota Celica Supra last night. Hogan arrived on the scene to see his son get freed from the car.

Police say that Bollea was speeding when the car hit a median, flipped over, slammed into a palm tree. He's in serious condition this morning. His passenger, though, in critical condition. No charges have been filed in this case yet.

Actor Owen Wilson reportedly in the hospital today. TMZ and other entertainment Web sites are reporting that Wilson was taken to the hospital Sunday at around noon. Santa Monica police would say only that they responded to a 911 call and that that person is being treated.

COLLINS: The search for six trapped miners will go on in Utah. Crews are now planning to drill a seventh hole into the Crandall Canyon Mine. They will also lower a camera just like the one used in the wreckage of the World Trade Center into a previously dug hole, with a major safety concern, though.

Mine owner Bob Murray made another announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: I met with our miners yesterday and today and announced that we would be temporarily shutting down the tower mine and laying off 170 persons. This is temporary until the engineering studies are done by the 10 firms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Murray does say he will never mine at Crandall Canyon again if the recovery effort fails. And according to the new "Farmers' Almanac," it might be time to stock up on shovels and long underwear if you live in the Northeast. The almanac's calling for heavy snow in the Northeast this year. Hopefully, it will make its way to the ski resorts there. Also, temperatures three degrees cooler than normal.

It could be tough in the South as well. Predictions of at least four major frosts.

The best place might be in the West, where it's expected to be milder than usual. The almanac has been making predictions for almost 200 years now based on a secret formula which looks at things like sun spots and the position of planets.

ROBERTS: Time now to check in with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents for other stories that we're following this morning.

Rob Marciano tracking extreme weather live from flooded-out Des Plaines, Illinois.

The last time you were with us, Rob, you had a boat that had just been left at the side of the road. Where are you now?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're by the river that has since receded. It crested on Saturday at about nine feet. The record would have been 11. That was the forecast. So residents here certainly glad to see the waters recede, but this is typically just a small creek.

It runs about two feet deep. And today, even after it has crested and receded, it is still flowing very high. And if I were to jump in there it would certainly be over my head.

This is not the only spot across the Midwest and the Plains that has been dealing with the torrential rain and the flooding that has been the result. Ohio, Iowa, just up the road here in Wisconsin, they have seen a number of records fall.

August the wettest month on record. In Madison, there have been nine record rainfall amounts for Thursday night into Friday. President Bush just yesterday declared five counties in Wisconsin a disaster area.

Now this morning, even though it's going to be nice here just northwest of Chicago, upstream, where the head waters to this river are, it looks like the rainfall is moving in that area. There's a little disturbance rolling across the Wisconsin area and the radar is showing some heavy rain that is moving through this area, albeit fairly quickly. And that will be the saving grace.

This looks like it wants to roll east in a fast manner, which would be good, meaning they would only get a half an inch, an inch of rain at the most. And that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

Also, rainfall expected down across the Southeast, and that breaking the back of that stifling heat wave that's been ongoing. Severe thunderstorms a threat, John, just north of here later on this afternoon. But northwest of Chicago, in the suburbs here, it looks like it's going to be a nice day.

A good day to begin the cleanup, which pretty much started yesterday. Floods are not a fun weather situation to clean up from, and that is the headache that residents here have to deal with.

ROBERTS: Yes. And you just ask folks in New Orleans. They are still cleaning up two years later.

Rob Marciano in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Rob, thanks very much.

A royal decision on memorial services for Princess Diana.

CNN's Monita Rajpal is following this from outside our bureau in London.

What is this all about, Monita?

MONITA RAJPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, residents at Buckingham Palace -- residents and officials at Bucking Palace -- will probably be breathing a huge sigh of relief this morning, as Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall and the wife of Prince Charles, has decided that to attend the memorial services on Friday marking the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. It was a decision that was supported by princes William and Harry, who had invited her to the event. In a statement this morning, Camilla had said that while she was touched by the invitation and wanted to support her husband and her stepsons, she decided her attendance would take the attention away from the occasion, which was to focus on the life and service of Diana.

Now, of course, this became a media frenzy and it becomes -- or her possible attendance became a media frenzy. And it always is such the case when the names "Camilla" and "Diana" are said in the same breath.

Papers this morning here in England, "The Daily Mirror," a pretty scathing opinion on their part, basically saying her decision was "About Time, Too, Ma'am," suggesting it was the queen's decision or stepping in at the 11th hour that pretty much made the decision.

Meanwhile, "The Times" here in London also saying Camilla's change of heart about Diana's service, talking how she had agonized over the decision for weeks before coming to the conclusion and talking to William and Harry about her attendance.

Now, royal watchers are saying that this should have never come to this position, this should have never come to this spot. That this should have been handled better some weeks ago, and that Camilla should have never been put in this position in the first place -- John.

ROBERTS: Yes. But I'm sure it was one of those invitations that when sent out, they were hoping, let's hope she responds in the negative to this.

RAJPAL: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Monita Rajpal for us in London this morning.

Monita, thanks very much.

No relief for your feet tops your "Quick Hits" now.

A new shoe scanning device that promised to allow you to keep your shoes on through airport security apparently is not ready for prime time. The TSA tests have revealed what they call security deficiencies. A new upgraded version will soon go into testing -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Workers are back on the job making repairs at the Deutsche Bank building near Ground Zero in New York, getting it ready for demolition. Two firefighters died in a fire there nine days ago. Two more were injured in a construction accident on Thursday.

American military commanders talking about how many troops should stay in Iraq and for how long. What happens when U.S. troops leave Iraq?

We'll be talking about that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

And you've seen those dashboard cameras, I'm sure, used by police. Well, now check out the next generation of crime-fighting cameras mounted on helmets.

We'll show you how they work coming up right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirteen minutes after the hour and some breaking news to report to you now. This coming to us from "The New York Times," which has just posted on its Web site a notification that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales intends to resign.

This story is just coming across right now. We're working to confirm it, but here is what "The New York Times" is saying.

Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted to President Bush his resignation by telephone on Friday. This according to an official cited by "The New York Times," an unnamed official.

The decision not announced immediately until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at the ranch in Waco, Texas, where the president is on a vacation, a somewhat working vacation. So we're expecting to hear from that -- probably from the results of that lunch a little bit later on.

This is very hastily written, obviously, because the news is breaking. We've got our White House team down there in Waco, Texas, looking to try to confirm this.

Also sent out messages to some other White House officials, but the news coming to us this morning from "The New York Times" that Alberto Gonzales, the embattled attorney general who has been in the hot seat over a number of issues, particularly warrant-less wiretapping, that meeting in the hospital with the former attorney general to try to renew the warrant-less wiretapping program, and as well over the firing of U.S. attorneys, apparently has submitted his resignation to President Bush.

We expect to hear about this in just a little while. As you can imagine, working to confirm this. And we hope to get word on that, official word from the White House, at least maybe on background, if not on the record, in the next few minutes or so.

So stay with us here on CNN as we work to confirm this information.

Again, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reportedly offered his resignation to President Bush and the resignation was accepted.

Iraqi leaders announced agreements this morning on a number of different issues -- sharing oil revenue, allowing former Ba-ath Party members to hold government jobs, and the release of detainees. In Washington, the debate centers on whether Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki should stay or go and what the military mission should be after the so-called surge ends.

"Washington Post" senior pentagon correspondent Tom Ricks is the author of the bestseller "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq". Tom Ricks joins us now live from our bureau in Washington.

Tom, thanks for being with us. Let me ask you, first of all, let's talk about Maliki, because also the troop withdrawal issue is big one.

Do you think Maliki survives this? He has got Hillary Clinton, Carl Levin and Senator John Warner all saying, the guy has done a terrible job. And then he's got this Washington lobbying firm with close ties to the White House saying, hey, Ayad Allawi is your guy.

So, can he survive all this?

TOM RICKS, AUTHOR, "FIASCO": The -- what I'm hearing out of Baghdad is he is not going to, that the government is going to fall sooner or later, probably sooner.

ROBERTS: Now, Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, the United States ambassador to Iraq, recently had a discussion with Joe Klein from "TIME" magazine, comments carried in Klein's article in which Crocker said, "The fall of the Maliki government, when it happens, might be a good thing."

How could that possibly be a good thing?

RICKS: Well, I think the feeling is that he has had a year to try to move forward, and that no reconciliation has been achieved. And remember, that is the stated purpose of the surge. It is to achieve political reconciliation.

So, judged by that measure, by the president's own measure, the surge is failing. And so I think the feeling is, OK, it's late summer, we've tried that, let's try something else.

ROBERTS: So who steps into his shoes? Is it Ayad Allawi, which is -- who is the person who is being promoted by Barbour, Griffith, Rogers, this big Washington lobbying firm with close ties to the White House?

RICKS: Well, Allawi looks like the short-term winner, but I've thought for a long time that the long-term winner in Iraq is Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric.

ROBERTS: What, you think he would become the prime minister?

RICKS: I think he would become the power behind the throne. I think he is already the most powerful figure in Iraq, and his Shiite competition is (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: Right.

RICKS: So, it looks to me like Sadr is going to be the last man standing.

ROBERTS: The Petraeus report that's expected out on or about September the 15th, do you expect that this is going to be a pivotal moment in America's presence in Iraq, or something less than that?

RICKS: I think something less than that. I think it's going to be anticlimactic, because we really had the debate in July that we expected in September.

I think the national intelligence estimate that came out recently is going to be very similar to what the Petraeus report says. So I think the key moment is going to be next spring, which -- because I think the surge is going to last until then.

ROBERTS: Right. And in terms of when the surge ends or begins to draw down troops, what part do you think Senator John Warner's statements over the last couple of days are going to play, that the president should at least make some sort of symbolic reduction in troops by December?

RICKS: I think Warner was actually trying to do the president a favor. Troop numbers are going to come down next year, so what Warner was saying, why not acknowledge that reality and make a symbolic gesture to bring troops down before then?

ROBERTS: Right.

RICKS: The fact is, the surge is going to end next year, troop numbers are going to start coming down in April by about 5,000 troops a month through October. And the question really is, in October of next year, what do you at that point? Do you keep drawing down troops below 130,000, and what is the mission of the troops who remain?

ROBERTS: All right. So what is your best guess of what will happen at that time?

RICKS: My best guess is they'll get it down -- they will try to get down to around a hundred thousand by the end of '08, and that the mission increasingly will be to try to contain the violence, to kind of step back and let Iraq be Iraq, whatever that means.

ROBERTS: All right. Tom Ricks from "The Washington Post".

Thanks for joining us this morning. Good to see you.

RICKS: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: Heidi.

COLLINS: And now we want to get back to the story we've been telling you a little bit about, the helmet cams. You may have heard of it on "David Letterman" a long, long time ago. But we are talking about London, actually.

Our Paula Newton is live in Scotland Yard with the new helmet camera.

Paula, I know you have one there in front of you, the lipstick cam. Tell us a little bit how it works.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is the bobby helmet here. And remember, this is as old as police work itself, more than two centuries old, and now it's gone high tech. But really, Heidi, this is a low-tech piece of gear here, only costs about 500 bucks, but right here in Britain they believe it could revolutionize police work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON (voice over): This is what we call the bobby cam. From the drunken brawl that's broken up to all of the arrests that follow...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're under arrest for (INAUDIBLE). That's fighting (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

NEWTON: The police officer's helmet camera is recording valuable evidence.

COLIN PRYCE, POLICE CONSTABLE: I can see you in the camera.

NEWTON: Police Constable Colin Pryce helped pilot the head camera project in Plymouth, England.

PRYCE: There's a microphone fitted inside of this.

NEWTON: He has been amazed at how the cameras have transformed his job. (on camera): Less paper work, more time on the beat?

PRYCE: Definitely. It makes a big difference. We don't have to document as much.

NEWTON (voice over): We walked the beat with Constable Pryce to see how it all works.

PRYCE: From where I am standing, I think I can see someone who I know to be wanted.

NEWTON: Off he goes, all of it caught on camera.

PRYCE: You all right? OK. Just going to check you on the system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PRYCE: So I'm arresting you now on the grounds of that warrant.

NEWTON: Later, he reviews the arrest on a digital recorder that he will then hand in at the end of his shift so the video can be saved for court.

(on camera): While crime prevention is sill a goal of this program, it's been very effective in gathering evidence that helps with prosecutions and convictions.

(voice over): It is this kind of compelling evidence, indisputable in most cases, that police say will lead to more convictions.

BOB SPENCER, DEVON AND CORNWALL POLICE: Absolutely, yes. Which is great news, because that's offenders brought to justice, that's victims being satisfied that there's some justice out there. And that's what we want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen. Both of you calm down. And go stand over there while I go and find out what is going on.

SPENCER: You know, if you say someone was violent and aggressive, well, you can say they're violent and aggressive or you can see the video and you say, wow.

NEWTON: Police say the bobby cam is already busting crime. Violent crime down eight percent. Proof, they say, this is no gimmick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calm down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Quickly want to get to the story that we were talking to you about a little bit earlier about today.

Alberto Gonzales, CNN has now confirmed that he has, in fact, turned in his letter of resignation. And indeed, President Bush has accepted it.

We want to get more on this. This is a story that has been in the news for quite sometime, obviously. People really from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, calling for Gonzales' resignation. It has now happened.

Suzanne Malveaux is standing by to give us a little bit more insight.

Suzanne, what are you learning this morning?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, we can confirm, several senior administration officials telling us this morning, that he has, in fact, resigned. This is really a move here that a lot of people were actually looking towards, perhaps even wishing for.

President Bush has really been the only person that has supported the attorney general for quite sometime. There are people inside of the White House, as well as Republican strategists and friends outside of the White House, who have constantly been calling for him to resign, saying that he has become a distraction.

As you know, there are numerous investigations revolving his role in the firing of the eight U.S. attorney generals. A lot of questions about his credibility. People on the Hill, as well as those within the Justice Department, saying that he has lost a great deal of that credibility because of statements, perhaps misstatements, and amendments to previous statements that he's made before lawmakers.

This has been something that a lot of people in Washington and outside of Washington have been calling for, for sometime now. There has been a lot of pressure on this president, in fact, to either call for his resignation, a lot of pressure on Gonzales, himself, to offer his resignation. But time and time again, this president, as well as people who are close to him, have said he is the only person who can make that decision, to accept the resignation, and they felt that Gonzales, at a certain point, when he felt that he was no longer useful in his position, that he would offer his letter of resignation to the president. And when the president decided the time was right, that he would accept it -- Heidi.

ROBERTS: Suzanne, it's John here.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise, though not a shock, because people knew just how embattled Alberto Gonzales was. But what is the White House saying about this morning? Because I think of this in the context of Josh Bolten going around to staff members in recent days saying, look, if you're not going to stay on board with the administration through January of 2008, we want you to let us know by the 31st of August.

Is this being spun as part of that program?

MALVEAUX: Well, you know what, John? It's so early in this news that's breaking that they're not really quite spinning it any way. They're just confirming it at this time.

We do know that Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, just a couple of weeks ago, went to all of the senior staff and said, look, if it's beyond Labor Day, then you're going to be in it for the next 17 months, in the long haul. And so you need to make some decisions here.

We don't know what kind of private conversations happened between Gonzales and the president here, but, obviously, there was a decision that was made that now was the time to go, that it wasn't worth it to continue this battle -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Suzanne, stay with us there from the north lawn at the White House.

We also want to bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, who is on the telephone with us.

John, you were actually the first one to confirm this news. And again, this comes not so much as a shock when you look at the amount of pressure that was on Gonzales, but it is a little bit of a surprise here to see him go, because there wasn't really any inkling of this.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, John.

They had this stubborn reaction at the White House first, if you will, when there was so much pressure on Gonzales to resign. The president rallied around him, they circled the wagons at the White House and essentially went through the summer months with Gonzales in place. And all indications were that the president would continue to stand by him. But we are told this morning they simply reached a calculation that there was no support left for this man outside of the White House.

He had problems with Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Democrats were going to continue to press him for documents and for testimony about the prosecutor firings and other controversies on Capitol Hill. And the honest truth is, he also does not have the support any longer of the career prosecutors within the Justice Department, who have just simply become demoralized. They believe the department is adrift.

And with just a little bit more, 17 more months left in office, the Bush administration was facing criticism from everywhere in the legal and political community that you had the top justice official, the top law enforcement officer in the United States, who simply had no standing, no stature. And in many quarters, no credibility. And so Alberto Gonzales finally decided it was time to go.

ROBERTS: John, it's been that case for sometime, though. So what about the timing of this? Why now? Why today?

KING: You end the summer break. You come in with a fresh start.

The president will have a chance to pick somebody else. So Gonzales will still have some problems on Capitol Hill. The Justice Department will still face some questions on Capitol Hill. But by getting a new person in there for the final months of what, by most accounts, is mostly a lame duck administration, you take away a lightning rod for a president who is desperately trying, John, to get some things done and to avoid nuclear controversies, if you will, nuclear political controversies in the final year and a half of his presidency.

He wants to get some domestic achievements. He wants to turn down the volume of partisan fighting. And in this case, he had an attorney general who was much, much more a liability than an asset. His only asset to the president was that he was his friend.

And one quick footnote on this. This is the last of the Texans who came with Mr. Bush to Washington in the close White House circle to have a senior job.

Karen Hughes, of course, is still at the State Department. She left and came back. But Karl Rove leaving recently. Now Alberto Gonzales leaving as well. It is -- this president does not have the old Texas posse around him anymore.

COLLINS: Hey, John, before we let you go, who is going to replace him?

KING: That's a great question, Heidi. There is some speculation that it could be the secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, who was a federal judge before he ended up in that job. That would be a striking decision, for the administration to change the chain of command at the Department of Homeland Security, but he is someone who is highly regarded by the president, very highly regarded by the vice president. So that is one place to watch.

Whatever the administration does, look for somebody who is less political and more of a career law enforcement, legal, judicial official to step into the job now. If you're going to replace Alberto Gonzales and take away this lightning rod in the middle of a storm, you want to go to somebody who will quickly get bipartisan acclamation on Capitol Hill. That would be, I think, the test for whoever it is, and Mr. Chertoff is certainly among those being speculated. But again, that would be a big move, to change the Department of Homeland Security at this juncture.

COLLINS: Yes.

All right. John King, thanks so much.

We want to get straight now to Dana Bash, our congressional correspondent, to get more information from that side of things.

Dana, as we've been saying and we've been saying for a long time, actually, both Democrats and Republicans have been suggesting that it would be a good idea for Alberto Gonzales to resign. Now we have the news that it's happened.

How does it change Congress?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very interesting, because, Heidi, I can tell you, you walk the halls of Congress, talk to any Democrat and most Republicans, and they would tell you they just thought -- that they did not think Alberto Gonzales was the right person for the job. And even some of the president's most loyal allies would sort of tell you privately in the hallways, they just could not understand why he was still in his job.

Part of the reason, interestingly, in talking to some Republicans, is -- that they actually didn't push even harder, is because they were concerned about the confirmation fight for the next attorney general. And that is something that we are going to see. You know, even as we're talking about the surprise of Alberto Gonzales' resignation, the next fight, the fight that is going to start essentially as soon as we get this name, is going to be quite interesting, because this is going to be one of the first high profile confirmations with the Democrats in control of Congress, not Republicans.

And we already have a statement, Heidi, from one of the Democrats who is going to be really instrumental in that, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. And he has already put out a statement saying Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who they are confident will put the rule of law above political consideration.

So, that is going to be very interesting to watch, how the Democrats, now in control, deal with whomever the next nominee will be.

ROBERTS: Hey, Dana, it's John.

You know, one of the reasons that was speculated that Gonzales was hanging in for so long was because the White House didn't want to have a confirmation battle with the environment in Congress as it is now. So, you know, all of that -- all of that speculation about that idea, you know, are we going to see, regardless of who this nominee is that comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, are we going to see a real venting of years of frustration by the Democrats here?

BASH: Absolutely, big-time. I mean, that's essentially what you've already seen, for lack of a better term, but using Alberto Gonzales as a punching bag the past several months. And it's going to be a whole new level, John. You're absolutely right.

(INSERT 08:00)

BASH: ... for lack of a better term, using Alberto Gonzales as a punching bag for the past several months, and it's going to be a whole new level, John, you're absolutely right. When you have the confirmation process you're going to see venting about the warrant- less wiretapping. You're going to venting about the Patriot Act. You're going to venting about Guantanamo. You're going to see venting about every issue that has come up, and come through this Department of Justice during the Bush years, and that the Democrats really have not had a chance to seize on as the controlling body of Congress. So there's no doubt about it.

And you know, I got to tell you it was sort of beyond speculation. I talked to Senator Jon Cornyn, for example, of Texas, one of the most loyal Bush allies who said, point blank, part of the reason his friend Gonzales was staying in his job is because Republicans were concerned about the next fight, and that this political problem with Gonzales being in office, being much, much less than the potential political problem of going through a next confirmation battle.

ROBERTS: All right, Dana, stay with us on the phone, if you would. We just want to, as we cross the half hour here, kind of reset and tell our viewers if you're just joining us that the big news this morning, which broke only a few minutes ago, is that embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has offered his resignation to the president of the United States, and the president has accepted that. We're expecting to hear a little bit more from the White House this morning on this.

Senior administration officials on background are confirming that, yes, in fact, this is the case, that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has been member of the Texas posse up there in Washington for a number of years, a close personal friend of the president, was his personal attorney for a while, was also on the Supreme Court in the state of Texas, is leaving under a huge, huge cloud of controversy and, of course, this is going to see an interesting confirmation hearing for his successor out there in Capitol Hill, as Dana Bash was saying. Democrats have got years of frustration over a number of different issues, all revolving around the Department of Justice, that they want to vent -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and I think one of the big questions in all of this, too, is what does it mean for the Department of Justice? We've talked about morale, who they're leader is and how they personally feel about working there and following him. It could be something, obviously, very fascinating.

I want to get over to Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent, in fact, to talk about that very thing. Kelli, What do you think? Is this going to reenergize things a bit?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think absolutely. I mean, no one will say that officially of course, but morale has never been lower. I've been covering this Justice Department for over seven years and I have never seen it in the state that it is. It's a lot of concern that a lot of good work is being overlooked, that no matter what they try to accomplish, agenda wise, it's going to stymied by a Democratic Congress that was just set up with Gonzales, that's just thought that his credibility was shot, that nothing that he said could be believed.

And so I believe, that, yes, this will definitely reenergize this department that has a lot of stuff ahead of them. You've got a rise in violent crime. Obviously, you've got a continuing counter- terrorism effort initiatives that has to be pushed forward. So lots of very integral pieces that have to go before this Congress -- before the public. And you need to have somebody out there who is convincing and who is believable and who people believe is not politicizing this department, but really upholding the law.

COLLINS: Kelli, quickly, I'm not sure if you heard, but John King was -- I had asked about who could possibly replace Alberto Gonzales. What do you think about the head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff?

ARENA: Well, you know, I knew Michael Chertoff. He worked over at Justice, was the head of the criminal division, a former federal judge, as you know now, the head of DHS. He's very well respected, not seen as a very political person, but, again, you know, that's a tricky move. DHS, I mean, the administration is trying to show how important that department is. May not want to mess with that right now.

Another name that always resurfaces whenever you have a change of attorney general is former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. He's in the corporate arena right now, said to be very happy in his job, but that's a name that will likely pop up.

Again, very, very early hours in this story. As they say, you know, the seat isn't even cold yet, and people are talking about who is going to replace him. But I agree with John, in that I do believe that this Congress needs somebody who isn't going to be seen as an arm of this administration, someone who is going to be seen as an independent person, possibly a career person, who's risen up through the ranks, maybe served at Justice before, to get us through these final months over there. There is still look at to be done. I mean, 17 months you can get a lot accomplished. Only a lot accomplished, though, if you have somebody who can work well with Congress.

COLLINS: All right, Kelli, thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, Democrats are ringing in on all of this. We just got this statement e-mailed to us from the John Edwards campaign, commenting today upon the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Senator John Edwards released the following statement: He first called for Gonzales's resignation on March 13th, 2007, this e-mail points out. The quote from Edwards, "Better late than never."

So this is what you're expecting to hear from Democrats. And I think you're going to hear some of that from Republicans as, well because as Dana Bash, and John king and Kelli Arena and so many others have pointed out this morning, he really did fall out of favor, really was an audience of one in terms of support for Gonzales, and that was the president of the United States. I've talked to numerous Republicans who said the guy just doesn't have any credibility anymore; we don't know why he is hanging in.

Jeff Toobin, by the way, our senior legal analyst, who's down in Richmond, Virginia to cover the Michael Vick hearing today joins us. Jeff, you and I had numerous conversations about this over the last few months. You always thought that he couldn't survive. Your thoughts this morning?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's funny. I find myself surprised, even though he was widely reviled without supporters, as you say, except for the president, but the president seems completely steadfast, and there did not appear to be support for impeachment on Capitol Hill.

So my understanding, my thought was that he was simply going to ride it out. I guess it simply became untenable, and he that recognized without support, except from President Bush, he couldn't survive. But I guess now that it's happened, I do -- I feel surprised.

ROBERTS: Really? But surprised, but are you shocked?

TOOBIN: Well, not shocked. I mean, you know, this was a really preposterous attorney generalship at this point. You really have to go back to John Mitchell, who was the attorney general under Richard Nixon, who wound up going to prison in the Watergate scandal, to find an attorney general who was as universally despised, or felt contempt for, than Alberto Gonzales. The real turning point was that hearing in April, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he had absolutely no clue why the eight U.S. attorneys were fired, why -- where all of the Republicans on the committee refused to come to his defense. That was the moment where he became a political pariah, and he's just been playing out the strings since then.

ROBERTS: So what about a replacement? What about this idea of Michael Chertoff? And what about the confirmation battle that could erupt in the Senate Judiciary Committee?

TOOBIN: Well, I have to confess a certain bias about Michael Chertoff. In the summer of 1986, right after I graduated from law school, I was Michael Chertoff's intern in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And you know, I've known Mike for a very long time. He was a wonderful prosecutor. He did perhaps the most important Mafia case in the history of organized crime prosecutions, the Commission case in Manhattan. He then went on to be the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, court of appeals judge in the early part of the Bush term, then head of the criminal division. He certainly has the resume for the job. He was a law clerk to Justice William Brennan, the biggest liberal probably in the history of the court. So he certainly hat resume you'd want.

However, he, too, has become a figure of political controversy.

COLLINS: Exactly.

TOOBIN: Remember, Michael Chertoff was the head of Homeland Security during Katrina. He was Michael Brown's boss. So he is going to be not...

COLLINS: Then you have to... TOOBIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

COLLINS: Go ahead. It just brings to mind a question of when you're getting on this point of some of his past history there, whether or not the Department of Justice, the people who work there, who go there every day, will be able to jump on board and begin following this individual.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, I think the people in the Justice Department are very anxious to be outside the realm of political controversy. They don't want to be at the center of this sort of -- and I think any new leader will certainly be given the benefit of the doubt, and someone of Chertoff's evident qualifications, despite his political controversies of the recent years, I think he probably would rally a lot of support there.

ROBERTS: All right, Jeff Toobin for us outside of the courthouse in Richmond, Virginia.

And stay with us, because Jeff is going to be reporting on the Michael Vick plea hearing this morning. That's coming your way in just a little less than two hours time, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

Suzanne Malveaux, White House correspondent, has been checking with her sources. She rejoins us now from the North Lawn of the White House. What's the latest that you've got, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, I'm getting from senior level officials that very likely it's going to be Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff who would be replacing him, and who would be replacing Chertoff would be the deputy of OMB. That would be Clay Johnson. That is what several senior administration, very senior administration, officials, are saying at this time that it is very likely those are the kind of shifts, the pieces that are going to be moving in the next perhaps as early as the next week or so, that this is all going to take place very quickly.

This is a letter of resignation that went out on Friday and that we do expect, obviously, for the White House to come forward.

We know the Justice Department as well is going to be making an announcement at 10:30 or so, but this is something that is in motion and they expect that it is going to be happening within days, perhaps within this week. John?

ROBERTS: Suzanne, just double check me on that. So, that -- Michael Chertoff for Gonzales, Clay Johnson for Chertoff?

MALVEAUX: That is very likely what the musical chairs, if you will, are going to be moving into place, we are told that is a very likely scenario.

ROBERTS: All right, well let's run that up on the flag pole on Capitol Hill. Senator Schumer, Democrat of New York joins us on the telephone right now. Senator Schumer, first of all, let me get your reaction to Alberto Gonzales' resignation because you have been calling for it for sometime now.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes. Well, I think this was clearly the right thing to do. It took a long time but there is no question about it, John, that the Justice Department is virtually nonfunctional. And nobody thought Alberto Gonzales was up to the job. This was one of our most important departments in America.

Particularly now with so much going on with terrorism and crime and everything else. And so this is a good thing. As for the future, the bottom line is this. What we Democrats have always said is that we need somebody in this department above all others who will put rule of law first. Rule of law above any political consideration.

And it's our hope, it's our plea that the White House talk to us about who a potential nominee could be and we realize that if -- that person is not going to have the same exact views as Democrats in the Senate, but as long as there's somebody who is a person who believes in rule of law and understands that that's the most sacrosanct value our democracy has, I think our desire would be to have a confirmation that would work.

ROBERTS: Well, does Michael Chertoff fit that bill? As you probably heard Suzanne because you were on the telephone that --

SCHUMER: It would be premature to speculate about any name until we hear about an official resignation, and he is somebody who obviously, is one name that's out there. We would want to question him and talk to him, even privately maybe before the nomination about what his views are on various issues.

Senator Leahy, of course, feels very strongly about the subpoenas that our committee, the judiciary committee has sent out and that will have to be part of the discussion. But our initial attitude is going to be one of cooperation.

ROBERTS: Right.

SCHUMER: And, we hope it is reciprocated.

ROBERTS: Senator, let me ask you just in a general sense what is your opinion of Michael Chertoff?

SCHUMER: Well, my opinion of Michael Chertoff is that homeland security, there is still lots and lots of problems. I haven't been as keen on his administration as others. Whether you look at port security or other types of things, those things haven't been done in the way that I think they should of.

There hasn't been the resources or the focus. The passports issue has been a gigantic mess where the baton was not passed between the two. but, those are questions about the Homeland Security Department. I think we'll also have to look at Michael Chertoff's record when he was a U.S. Attorney.

ROBERTS: And what's your view of that? SCHUMER: -- the time when he was a federal judge.

ROBERTS: What is your view of that? What's your view of both of those careers?

SCHUMER: Have to go back and study those things.

ROBERTS: I mean, you're in New York. He was in New Jersey. He was on television all the time. You and I both go to know each other when I was working the local news here in New York and you couldn't get Michael Chertoff off the TV. You have to have some sense what he was like as a prosecutor.

SCHUMER: Well, again, I think I'd want to reserve judgment until -- until we hear from the official statement from the Justice Department. Not that I doubt that the attorney general is resigning, but I think this needs some -- I think this needs some careful thought. In the past I've thrown out a bunch of names that would be acceptable.

Again, I can tell you our criteria. Rule of law first and foremost. This Justice Department has seen the rule of law take a back seat to political considerations, and that has to be undone and undone quickly.

ROBERTS: Is it safe to say Senator Schumer, that any confirmation hearing will be an opportunity for Democrats to air years worth of grievances about a number of different issues revolving around the Department of Justice?

SCHUMER: Let me say this, and I'm speaking for myself, I'd rather look forward than look back. I'd rather look at somebody who can straighten out some of the problems in the future rather than finger point in the past.

When I called for the attorney general to step down, I think I was the first one. It was because I was so upset at how the Justice Department was being run with the U.S. Attorney's investigation, with Kome's (ph) revelations, with what's happened with wiretaps and so many other different kinds of issues.

And so I think our number one goal is not to look back and finger-point. It's to, rather, look forward and find an attorney general who can get the Justice Department working in the way it's always worked, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, which is rule of law first.

ROBERTS: Well, you'll be playing an integral part in the confirmation hearings in the next -- attorney general of the United States. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, thanks for being with us this morning. Good to talk to you.

SCHUMER: Thank you. Nice to talk to you.

ROBERTS: Heidi? COLLINS: Our Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash is standing by now to give us some perspective from Congress, obviously. So, we have heard -- we've just been listening to Charles Schumer, the Democratic side of things. Dana, had a chance to speak to any Republicans about this? Any reaction there yet?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have not gotten anything from Republicans yet, expect to soon. It's congressional recess so people are sort of in all corners of the country now, but it will be very interesting to hear from some Republicans like senator Arlen Specter for example, the ranking Republican on this.

And, the Judiciary Committee of course, Heidi, who spent so -- I mean just -- it has been no holds barred in the criticism that he has had for the attorney general. And the fact he thinks he should of been gone a long time ago. So, it would be interesting to hear from people like him and even people who were a little bit more quiet in their criticism of attorney general.

One thing that you heard and that you might sort of be looking for in terms of who the President puts up, talking to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- again, close allies of the President, tried and true Republicans. They say one of the things that the Attorney General Gonzales did not have is, he wasn't in the trenches.

He didn't -- he didn't come up through the ranks of the Justice Department, and that is one thing they thought he was really lacking in in terms of understanding the way the Justice Department ran, and then, of course, understanding the way Washington runs. So that was one -- a big problem that they had with Alberto Gonzales, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Dana, thanks so much for that. We want to get back to Jeff Toobin, our legal analyst who was listening in to Charles Schumer. In case you missed it a moment ago, we have been -- certainly not reporting. We have no idea who the replacement is going to be and it may take time for the replacement for Alberto Gonzales to actually be announced.

We do have a 10:30 news conference coming up at the Department of Justice. Not exactly sure of what will take place there other than just to simply formally announce the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. Jeff, I know you were listening in to what of somewhat Chuck Schumer said.

Did not really owe oppose the idea of Michael Chertoff taking over did he?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I thought it was highly significant. When you look at Chuck Schumer who is among the most partisan Democrats in the Senate, the head of the Democratic Senate campaign operation, he was very cautious to favorable about the possible Chertoff nomination.

I think that's a very good sign for both the White House and for Chertoff himself, because Chuck Schumer is no shrinking violet. He would not hesitate to oppose someone that he thought the Democrats could really rally against, and the fact he took this wait and see attitude about Chertoff struck me as a very positive sign, both for the nomination and for his ultimate confirmation.

COLLINS: Is there a person, Jeff, that could come into this position and make both sides happy? The Democrats and the Republicans. Does that person exist?

TOOBIN: Well, I don't know if happiness is really the goal, but I think there are people who would not excite more controversy than already exists around the Justice Department. And based on Chuck Schumer's initial reaction, it certainly seems like Michael Chertoff, if he's the nominee, will be given a chance.

Will be given the opportunity to say I'm a different person, I will put rule of law first, I'll take the politics out of the operations of the Justice Department. I'll return the career employees to a place of prominence. That, I think, is what the Senate is going to want to hear and it sounds like, at least Chuck Schumer, is going to give Michael Chertoff the opportunity to make that case.

ROBERTS: All right, Jeff Toobin for us this morning outside the courthouse there in Richmond, Virginia. Thanks very much. Dana Bash still on the phone with us, she's been working her sources on Capitol Hill on the Republican side because we're hearing a lot from Democrats. John Edwards said it's about time.

Chuck Schumer said very similar things that he said he was going to withhold judgment on Michael Chertoff until the official announcement is made and until he learns a little bit more about him, though I don't know how much more there is to know about him, it's pretty much an open book.

But, Dana, what are Republicans saying this morning about replacing Gonzales, particularly when we look at this historic anniversary of two years since Hurricane Katrina?

BASH: That is really the key. You just hit the nail on the head. The one thing that we really have to keep in mind when you're talking about Michael Chertoff, as Jeffrey Toobin said, John, Chuck Schumer was uncharacteristically diplomatic if you will about Michael Chertoff.

But, he also mentioned the fact that he is not that thrilled with the way that he has managed -- Michael Chertoff has managed the Department of Homeland Security. And, we cannot forget where we are right now on the calendar. And, we are two years this week after Katrina.

And, you remember at the time, Michael Chertoff was somebody, when you talked about the mismanagement if you will at the federal level and the federal government, he was somebody who was really at the center of that. And Democrats will not forget that if, in fact, they do have Michael Chertoff in the chair in front of them in a confirmation hearing for the head of the Justice Department. Because when you look at the November election last year, and you look at what some of the scenes the Democrats have been pounding on over and over again, it is what they see as mismanagement of the Bush administration at the federal level in key agencies. One, of course, is the Department of Justice as we saw with Alberto Gonzales, and the other was the Department of Homeland Security.

So, this is a whole new thing that if Chertoff is nominated that he would be in place for in his credentials as a lawyer as a judge will certainly be in place, but what Democrats perceive as mismanagement could be an issue. And, I've gotten an e-mail from a Senate judiciary aide saying don't be so sure that it will so easy if it is in fact Michael Chertoff.

ROBERTS: Right. OK, Dana Bash, I'll let you keep working your sources. We'll get back to you. Thanks very much.

Let's go back to the north lawn of the White House. Suzanne Malveaux with us again. Suzanne, have we learned anything more to nail down this idea that Michael Chertoff will be the nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales? We know that Gonzales is holding a press conference at 10:30 to announce his resignation. Anything more firm on Chertoff this morning?

MALVEAUX: Well, John we certainly know that he's at the top of the list here, that this is something that they feel fairly strongly about here so we'll see how it all plays out, but that he is definitely on the top of the list, and that someone who is perhaps going to replace him would be Clay Johnson he is the Director -- the Deputy Director of OMB.

Now, this is something that people say here. It's going to happen fairly quickly. This is something that they want to take place. Obviously, Congress will be coming back and will have to go through that whole process, but they feel that Chertoff has the kind of resume, the kind of relationship with lawmakers that would make this a much easier process than if they had chosen some other folks.

There are other people who they are speculating about but sources -- very high level sources saying that Chertoff is the number one pick at this time.

ROBERTS: And, what is the White House expecting in terms of this confirmation battle? Particularly when you look at the information that Dana Bash was giving us just a minute ago that you've got this two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming up. And everybody remembers that Michael Chertoff came under a lot of heavy fire at the Department of Homeland Security for the lack of response to Katrina.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely. It's not going to be a cake walk here. I think they realize this. But I think they're looking at all of their options and this perhaps is the best out of all of their options. It is certainly the best under the scenario that could of played out the last 17 months of the President's administration and that is leaving the attorney general in place. There had been so many people that had abandoned ship and really were calling for him to leave, to step down. This is something they feel anything better than having him be here for the next 17 months is a good scenario, John.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you, there is just so many different opinions you've got some people who are surprised that it took this long and other people who are surprised if he hung in this long, why didn't he hang in the rest of the way? Suzanne Malveaux for us at the White House this morning. We'll be going back to her as the morning progresses with more information on this.

Again, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expected to announce at a press conference at 10:30 this morning at the Department of Justice that he is stepping down. Heidi?

COLLINS: Joining us this morning on a very busy news morning, obviously, our Democratic Strategist Stephanie Cutter she is coming to us from Washington and Republican Pollster, Kellyann Conway from Philadelphia. Well guys, we were going to talk about some other things today, but now we have very big news. The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kellyann, your thoughts on that, first.

CONWAY: Think it will put at ease many people on Capitol Hill and in the Department of Justice. We forget that when you head an agency that large, you need the full faith of the career prosecutors. People who are there across Republican and Democratic administrations.

Heidi, it's been a real fall for this man, though. He was always on the original short list for President Bush for United States Supreme Court Justice. A prospect that got many ideological conservatives in a tizzy from the beginning. If President Bush had had his way, maybe both Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales would be on the Supreme Court.

And I can tell you that many conservatives are happy that the justices are Sam Alito and John Roberts. But, this is good. I hope that Senator Schumer speaks for many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill who are the majority and will decide the state of the next nominee, and give that person a full and fair hearing.

Let's remember, Michael Chertoff he's a judge on the third circuit, he was the head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and lawyer in private practice. Really a brilliant man beyond reproach. And, one would want to ask the United States senators who voted easily for Chertoff's confirmation as Head of Homeland Security why, in fact, they would oppose him now.

Because if they oppose him now for no good reason, a man they supported through his nomination less than two years ago, it looks like a big, raw political move.

COLLINS: Yes, that's a great point. Stephanie Cutter, what about that? It would seem like you'd have to stand behind Michael Chertoff. Again, reminding everyone we do not have official confirmation of the possibility that Michael Chertoff could be the replacement for Alberto Gonzales, but we are hearing that certainly and want to sort of explore the idea.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.

COLLINS: Would people have faith in him?

CUTTER: I think there are a lot of legitimate questions that need to be asked. I've been listening to your coverage of what type of attorney general Chertoff would be. Just two years ago, he was the head of Homeland Security, that was solely responsible for the mismanagement of Katrina.

And I think that senators on both sides of the aisle are going to have important questions about whether or not he has the competence and the skills to manage a department, the Department of Justice that's been ripe with controversy for too many years. Those are legitimate questions.

COLLINS: Well, first of all, I think people would argue that he wasn't solely responsible but if you had a different name, who would it be?

CUTTER: Oh, I think it's very important to find somebody who is a known entity to the senators on both sides of the aisle. It could be a former senator, it could be a sitting senator, it could be a governor. But it has to be somebody who is a known entity and has the trust of a bipartisan group of senators.

CONWAY: I have a couple of suggestions. Larry Thompson was mentioned. He was the deputy attorney general, of course, and did an excellent job and now is at PepsiCo and apparently happy in private practice. A wonderful man and a great jurist (ph).

The other person would have to be Ted Olsen the former Solicitor General, who argued Bush versus Gore before the United States Supreme Court. A famed lawyer in private practice and a good man who, again, has been confirmed by the United States Senate quite handily in the past.

CUTTER: Or, Senator Danforth.

COLLINS: Go ahead, I'm going to give you the last word, Kellyann.

CONWAY: Me?

COLLINS: I'm sorry, pardon me, Stephanie. Go ahead.

CUTTER: Or Senator Danforth, in continuing to what Kellyann was saying, I think Senator Danforth would probably unite people and manage the agency quite well.

ROBERTS: Well, it looks sort of like Chertoff has got the inside track on all of this. Again, though, people are wondering why the White House would want to engage in a battle like this at this point with all of the bad blood that's gone on between Democrats and Republicans over the Department of Justice for the last couple of years, but I guess they had no choice.

Stephanie Cutter and Kellyann Conway, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it. Let's go back to Jeff Toobin one more time. Jeff, what are your thoughts on this resignation and the possible replacement?

TOOBIN: Well, what an extraordinary fall from grace for Alberto Gonzales. I mean, here was a guy who arrived with President Bush in 2001 as White House Counsel. Universally thought to be a likely Supreme Court nominee. He was mentioned very heavily in connection with the vacancy that Sandra Day O'connor left.

But, conservatives were not happy with him and they essentially vetoed him. He got a very good consolation prize, he got to be the Attorney General of the United States, but he was a complete and utter failure. That's the sad thing about a man who came from very humble beginnings and had a lot of people rooting for him, to have fallen this far this fast is pretty extraordinary.

ROBERTS: All right. Jim Toobin this morning for us outside the courthouse in Richmond, pulling no punches as usual. Jeff thanks very much. And don't forget, that Jeff is going to continue to follow not only this case, but also the plea hearing of Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick which takes place at exactly the same time --

COLLINS: Yes. He's going to be busy.

ROBERTS: -- as the Attorney General. And, we'll be busy with this all day today. Just want to recap what's going on just about 45 minutes ago we heard the news that Alberto Gonzales the Attorney General of the United States on Friday, telephone President Bush to say that he wanted to resign from his post. President Bust accepted that.

At 10:3 this morning Gozales will be holding a press conference at the Department of Justice to announce that resignation. And we may -- we may hear about a potential replacement to -- who would be the nominee who would then go up to Capitol Hill for confirmation hearings.

COLLINS: If there's someone standing by the President, like near him, it will be probably be that person.

ROBERTS: Yes, and it looks like Michael Chertoff at this point. We haven't got confirmation on that. But it looks like Michael Chertoff is the number one pick to replace Alberto Gonzales. Chertoff, of course a former U.S. attorney, a former judge, currently the Secretary of Homeland Security.

That's going to do it for us here on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will be back again tomorrow. And thank you for joining in to pitch (ph) in for Kiran Chetry this morning. Appreciate you for coming in.

COLLINS: Thank you. CNN NEWSROOM with T.J. Holmes and Brianna Keilar begins right now.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, thank you, guys. Yes, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I am T.J. Holmes sitting in today for Tony Harris.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Heidi Collins. You can watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on this Monday morning. It's August 27th and two major stories topping the run down right now. Breaking news from Washington, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned, that word coming just a short time ago.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com