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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Deceit, deception, and de Gonzales

In early March of 2004, the Terrorist Surveillance Program that the Bush administration had secretly launched after the Sept. 11 attacks was set to expire. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Asst. AG James Comey, and Justice Department legal counsel, Jack Goldsmith, began raising concerns about whether it violated the law, and decided to oppose it's recertification due the legal problems it had presented. Shortly thereafter, Mr.Ashcroft fell ill and was admitted to the hospital for gall-bladder surgery, and Mr.Comey was placed in the capacity of acting Attorney General.

With the program set to expire on March 11, 2004, and Ashcroft in the hospital, administration officials approached Comey to get the Justice Department’s blessing for re-authorization, but he refused to give it. That touched off the flurry of late-night maneuvering on March 10 that ended up in Ashcroft’s hospital room and, later, at the Justice Department and White House:

Comey was being driven home when he received an urgent call from Ashcroft’s chief of staff, David Ayres. Ayres relayed the fact that Ashcroft’s wife, Janet, had just received a call from the White House that Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. were en route to the hospital. Mrs. Ashcroft was upset because she had forbidden visitors and phone calls; her husband was recuperating from surgery the previous day.

Suspecting that an end run was in the works, Comey ordered his security detail to head for George Washington University Medical Center, contacted FBI Director Robert Mueller to meet him there, and raced there himself, with lights flashing, to protect Ashcroft from any efforts at coercion. “I was very upset. I was angry,” Comey told a Senate panel Tuesday. "And I was determined to get to the hospital first".

I raced to the hospital room, entered, and Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed. Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened,” Comey said. “And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.”

Comey said he stepped out into the hallway and spoke by phone to Mueller, who instructed the FBI agents not to allow Comey to be removed from the room “under any circumstances.” Two other senior Justice officials soon joined Comey and the Ashcrofts in the room.

Shortly thereafter,
Alberto Gonzales, carrying an envelope apparently containing the presidential spying order, arrived with Andrew Card.

They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there: to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was,” Comey said.

And Atty. Gen. Ashcroft then stunned me,” Comey continued. “He lifted his head off the pillow and, in very strong terms, expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, drawn from the hour long meeting we’d had a week earlier, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, ‘But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general right now.’

Card and Gonzales then left, he said.

According to Comey, Card called later to angrily demand that he meet him at the White House. “I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness,” Comey said. It was a close call, Comey said. “I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man”.

He replied, ‘What conduct? We were just there to wish him well,’ ” Comey testified. “And I said again, ‘After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness.” Comey then tracked down Solicitor General Theodore Olson at a dinner party, and Olson agreed to be the witness. After meeting with other Justice officials at department headquarters, Comey said he and Olson headed to the White House about 11 p.m. but that nothing was resolved.

The White House renewed the program the next day without his, or anyone else's approval. With the White House disregarding the Justice Department’s legal advice, Comey,Ashcroft, Mueller and several other senior Justice officials made plans to resign. They relented only after Bush agreed to restructure the program after meetings with Comey and Mueller the next day.

It has some characteristics of the ‘Saturday Night Massacre,’ ” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, referring to the Watergate-era episode in which the attorney general and his deputy resigned rather than fire a special prosecutor investigating wrongdoing by the Nixon White House.

I would say what happened in that hospital room crystallized Mr. Gonzales’ view about the rule of law: that he holds it in minimum low regard,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a leading Gonzales critic, said at the hearing. “It’s hard to understand after hearing this story how Atty. Gen. Gonzales could remain as attorney general, how any president - Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative - could allow him to continue.”

Some observers said Comey’s testimony reinforced the view of Gonzales as someone who is loyal to Bush and little else. And it leaves one amazed over a story in which Ashcroft was the "good guy", as well as to wonder if Alberto Gonzales recalls the events of that evening four years ago. . .I'm guessing that he won't.

Related: No Confidence vote on Gonzales expected.

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Blogger Robert Rouse said...

We need the right to have recall elections for the president of this country - or any of his appointees. As the people, we should have the last word. Other countries can vote no confidence in their leaders. If we could vote right now, Bush and every other SOB in his administration would be toast!

title="comment permalink">May 17, 2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

I just can not stop groaning today. No good news, none whatsoever. Bush is the most arrogant brat of a President we've ever had and he is setting us up for a world of trouble.

title="comment permalink">May 17, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Human said...

He Lied and our Freedoms Died.

title="comment permalink">May 17, 2007 10:05 PM  
Blogger Stan Matuska said...

I have no idea why they don't just stop the bleeding already and fire Attorney General Gonzales. It's gonna happen anyway. How in the world does such a kiss-ass liar get in that position anyway??? Wait, I know. Because he's such a kiss-ass liar!

title="comment permalink">May 17, 2007 10:42 PM  
Blogger Parson said...

Bush only appoints the best kiss-ass liars, actual ability and knowlege isn't considered. I guess that's why something like 150 people that work for Bush graduated from that Pat Robinson 4th tier(or was it 5th?)law school.

title="comment permalink">May 17, 2007 10:54 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

I simply don't understand the arrogance and rigid stubbornness of guys like Gonzo and Wolfowitz when they are caught. Resign already and be done with it. GEEZ.

(all i can think is that they have been getting away with it for so long, it's a shock to finally be held accountable).

title="comment permalink">May 18, 2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Jeff Pruitt said...

Everyone should watch Comey's testimony. You can tell how gutwrenching it really is for him to admit these things...

title="comment permalink">May 18, 2007 3:01 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Robert - We could have ended this alot sooner!

Mary - Patience has never been my strong suit.

Human - It'd sure be a great start.

Stan - That's how you succeed with this bunch.

Parson - Liberty U.

Pam - You nailed it. No consequences until just recently.

Jeff - Thank you; great video!

title="comment permalink">May 20, 2007 9:31 PM  

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