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Ashcroft Steps Down as U.S. Attorney General

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Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft (Reuters photo)

By AP/KWMU

Washington, DC – The re-shuffling of President Bush's Cabinet began on Tuesday with the announced resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

The President says Ashcroft worked tirelessly to help make the nation safer. He also says he former Missouri Governor and U.S. Senator transformed the federal Justice Department to make fighting terrorism the top priority.

Missouri Republican Party spokesman Paul Sloca said it's too early to speculate whether Ashcroft might re-enter politics in his home state.

Ashcroft and Evans are the first members of President Bush's Cabinet to leave since he was re-elected to a second term last week.

In a handwritten, five-page letter to the president, Ashcroft wrote that "the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." But he goes on to say that the Justice Department would be "well served" by "new leadership and fresh inspiration."

Speculation about a successor to Ashcroft has centered on his former deputy, Larry Thompson. If appointed, Thompson would be the nation's first black attorney general. Others prominently mentioned include Bush's 2004 campaign chairman, former Montana Governor Marc Racicot, and White House general counsel Alberto Gonzales.

To hear NPR's coverage of Ashcroft's resignation, as aired on Morning Edition, click here.

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