In the aftermath of the public revelation of the presidential "teleconference" and mounting criticism of the performance of Michael Chertoff, Administration sources told HUMAN EVENTS today that the secretary of Homeland Security has "only a few days left" in the Bush Cabinet.
As one source acquainted with the former federal prosecutor and U.S. appellate judge said under promise of anonymity, "They will give [Chertoff] a little time so it won’t hurt his reputation too much, but he’s probably got only a few days left."
For weeks, Chertoff has been under fire from Capitol Hill and the media for his performance during the disaster last year. In addition, more criticism has been fueled by his clash with former FEMA Director Michael Brown in the so-called post-Katrina "blame game." (See HUMAN EVENTS’ exclusive report, "Brown: White House Made Me Scapegoat," in which he says, "They’ve got to keep me out there as a scapegoat. If they get rid of Chertoff, they have no new scapegoat. Then it goes to the White House.")
Last month, however, when I asked White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if the President had confidence in the embattled Chertoff, he replied without hesitation "Absolutely." Even Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), a very public critic of the Administration’s handling of Katrina, stopped short of calling on Chertoff to leave.
But with the release of the teleconference two days ago and resultant media discussion of the President’s apparent silence as Brown informs him of pending disaster ("Is Brown Owed An Apology?" was the theme of a debate on Fox News last night), criticism of Chertoff and calls for his resignation have been enhanced.
Now, at least one source close to him says the end of his tenure as the nation’s second secretary of Homeland Security is near.
UPDATE — 8:08 p.m.: A senior administration official is refuting my source’s comments that Chertoff’s days are numbered.
“The President offered strong words of support for Secretary Chertoff on Tuesday in an interview with Elizabeth Vargas. Secretary Chertoff is serving in one of the most difficult positions in government and he is doing an excellent job.”