ABC's Pierre Thomas Reports: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a crowd in St. Louis, Mo. that he's happy to be out of Washington - if just for a day. The embattled head of the Justice Department is standing firm amid calls for him to step down, telling reporters, "I'm not going to resign. I'm going to stay focused on protecting our kids," a nod to the Project Safe Childhood program, a Justice Department initiative against online predators and child exploitation.
Gonzales traveled to St. Louis for a round table discussion on the program with Missouri's two U.S. attorneys. This is his first public appearance since he responded to questions about last year's controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys March 13. It's also the first of a series of stops aimed at shoring up support among the 93 current U.S. attorneys.
"There's a lot work that needs to be done around the country," said Gonzales. "The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I'm staying focused on that."
Gonzales might be keeping his focus on projects at his department, but Congress is charging ahead with its investigation into the firings.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has cleared the way to issue subpoenas compelling Justice Department staff to testify on the matter, and will hear from Gonzales former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, next week. Sampson resigned after e-mails showing his communications with the White House counselâ€™s office over the matter were made public.
Monday, the Justice Department released more than 3,000 pages of internal documents and e-mails detailing the firings process.