Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded Alberto Gonzales' resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys, but President Bush had defiantly stood by his Texas friend until accepting his resignation Friday.
"It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice," Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective Sept. 17.
Bush planned to discuss Gonzales' departure at his Crawford, Texas, ranch later Monday.
Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general until a replacement is found, said administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the announcement.
Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was among those mentioned as possible successors. However, a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. Bush leaves Washington next Monday for Australia, and Gonzales' replacement might not be named by then, the official said.
"Better late than never," said Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, summing up the response of many in Washington to Gonzales' resignation.
Republicans reacted cautiously. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who offered only muted support for the attorney general when some Republicans called for Gonzales' resignation, on Monday largely blamed his troubles on Democrats.
Gonzales, the former White House counsel who served more than two years at the Justice Department, announced his departure at the Justice Department. He reflected on his up-from-the-bootstraps life story, the son of migrant farm workers from Mexico who didn't finish elementary school.
"Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days," Gonzales said.