May 15, 2007

Ashcroft looking better and better

David Iglesias has said many times that John Ashcroft sat him down after he was appointed US Attorney and told him to now set politics aside. Is it possible that Ashcroft was one of the more principled members of this administration?

AL points us to a story where Andrew Card and Albert Gonzalestried to override the acting AG to authorize their wiretapping scheme:

Comey testified that Ashcroft's wife called him and warned him that Card and Gonzales were coming to the hospital. Comey, suspecting what was happening, immediately headed over to the hospital and called a number of other officials at the DOJ to act as witnesses. Apparently Comey, Goldsmith, and a few others managed to get to the hospital before Card and Gonzales and were waiting in the room when they arrived.

Gonzales had papers in his hand for Ashcroft to sign, but Ashcroft wouldn't have any of it. He said that he agreed with Comey and Goldsmith and that his opinion was irrelevant anyway because Comey was the acting Attorney General. Gonzales and Card then stormed out, and apparently Card placed a very angry call to Comey demanding that he come to the White House at 11 p.m. that night. Comey said he would only show up if he could bring a witness. He showed up with Ted Olson, the Solicitor General. Though Comey is somewhat cryptic about what happened next, he seemed to indicate that a number of high level DOJ officials, including himself, Ashcroft, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, made it clear that they were all prepared to resign if the White House went ahead and authorized a program that the DOJ had determined was illegal.

Comey met with Card alone briefly and later with Gonzales and Olson as well. Though the meeting was "civil" according to Comey, he prepared a letter of resignation afterward. The next day the President called Comey in and talked to him one-on-one. Comey told him to talk to Mueller. Apparently he did and later Comey heard, via Mueller, that the President wanted the DOJ to make whatever changes were necessary to make the program legal.

1 comment:

Streak said...


COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly.

And so 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. 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.

SCHUMER: At that point it was you, Mrs. Ashcroft and the attorney general and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.

COMEY: Just the three of us at that point.

I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn't clear that I had succeeded.

I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room.

I was shortly joined by the head of the Office of Legal Counsel assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith, and a senior staffer of mine who had worked on this matter, an associate deputy attorney general.

So the three of us Justice Department people went in the room. I sat down...

SCHUMER: Just give us the names of the two other people.

COMEY: Jack Goldsmith, who was the assistant attorney general, and Patrick Philbin, who was associate deputy attorney general.

I sat down in an armchair by the head of the attorney general's bed. The two other Justice Department people stood behind me. And Mrs. Ashcroft stood by the bed holding her husband's arm. And we waited.

And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. 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 -- which I will not do.

And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of thematter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me -- drawn from the hour-long meeting we'd had a week earlier -- and in very strong terms expressed himself, 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."

SCHUMER: But he expressed his reluctance or he would not sign the statement that they -- give the authorization that they had asked, is that right?


And as he laid back down, he said, "But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general," and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left.

The two men did not acknowledge me. They turned and walked from the room. And within just a few moments after that, Director Mueller arrived. I told him quickly what had happened. He had a brief -- a memorable brief exchange with the attorney general and then we went outside in the hallway.