WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General John Ashcroft is likely
to leave his post before the start of President Bush’s second
term, senior aides said yesterday.

Janna Hutz
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks at the eighth annual Canada-U.S. Cross Border Crime Forum in Ottawa on Oct. 22. (AP PHOTO)

Ashcroft, 62, is described as exhausted from leading the Justice
Department in fighting the domestic war on terrorism since the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Stress was a factor in Ashcroft’s
health problems earlier this year that resulted in removal of his
gall bladder.

Ashcroft is expected to resign before Bush’s Jan. 20
inauguration, said aides who spoke only on condition of
anonymity.

They said there is a small chance he would stay on, at least for
a short time, if Bush asked him.

The attorney general has not officially informed his staff of
his future plans, spokesman Mark Corallo said.

At a news conference, Bush said he hasn’t made any
decisions about his Cabinet.

Ashcroft, a former two-term governor and senator from Missouri,
has long been a favorite among Bush’s base of religious
conservatives. He also is a lightning rod for Democrats and other
critics on issues ranging from the anti-terrorism Patriot Act,
which expanded rules for eavesdropping, to abortion rights and gun
control.

Names that have been floated in recent weeks as a possible
replacement include Ashcroft’s former deputy, Larry Thompson,
who would become the first black attorney general. Others include
Marc Racicot, who was Bush’s campaign manager, and White
House general counsel Alberto Gonzales, who would give Bush a
notable Hispanic appointment.

Also sometimes mentioned is former New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani, but his spokeswoman said he’s not interested.
“Rudy Giuliani is not taking John Ashcroft’s
job,” Sunny Mindel said.

Mindel said Giuliani is committed to the success of his business
and government consulting firm.

Giuliani, a former prosecutor, is considered a possible
presidential contender in 2008. Those political aspirations could
be hampered by the controversies inherent in the top Justice
Department job.

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