WASHINGTON - Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown said Monday he has resigned "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president," three days after losing his onsite command of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
Brown, under fire for FEMA's performance in the Gulf Coast, said he feared he had become a distraction.
"The focus has got to be on FEMA, what the people are trying to do down there," Brown told The Associated Press.
His decision was not a surprise. Brown was abruptly recalled to Washington on Friday, a clear vote of no confidence from his superiors at the White House and the
Homeland Security Department. Brown had been roundly criticized for FEMA's sluggish response to the hurricane, which has caused political problems for Bush and fellow Republicans. He also was accused of padding his resume, which Brown denied Friday.
The president ducked questions about Brown's resignation. "Maybe you know something I don't know. I've been working," the president said to reporters on an inspection tour of damage in Gulfport, Miss. Bush said he planned to talk with Brown's boss, Homeland Security Director
Michael Chertoff, from Air Force One on the flight back to Washington.
"There will be plenty of time to figure out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said.
Polls show most Americans believe Bush could have done more to help Katrina's victims, though they also blame leaders of Louisiana and New Orleans. Bush's overall job approval rating is at the lowest point of his presidency.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Brown's departure long overdue.
"His resignation is the right thing for the country and for the people of the Gulf Coast states," she said in a statement.
Brown, who said he last talked to Bush five or six days ago, said the resignation was his idea. He spoke Saturday to White House chief of staff Andy Card, who did not request his departure, according to Brown.
"I'm turning in my resignation today," Brown said. "I think it's in the best interest of the agency and the best interest of the president to do that and get the media focused on the good things that are going on, instead of me."
Shortly after Brown was recalled to Washington last week, officials close to the FEMA director said he would probably resign. They said that even before Katrina, Brown had been planning on leaving the administration late this fall to go into the private sector.