Comey, Ashcroft and the Hospital Wiretap Visit

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Marcy Wheeler live-blogged it over at Firedoglake.

The MSM is reporting on Comey's testimony regarding Alberto Gonzales' and Andrew Cards' 2004 hospital visit to former Attorney General John Ashcroft to get him to sign off on an extension of Bush's warrantless NSA electronic surveillance program.

I covered that extensively here and here in January, 2006, including reporting from the New York Times and Newsweek.

Think Progress has the transcript of today's Comey testimony.

Did Comey add anything today to the story that wasn't previously known? Is it really as shocking as Charles Schumer makes it sound? Or should Schumer have done something about it back in 2006 when the story was widely reported and we were all complaining about it?

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    I don't know as I'd say... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue May 15, 2007 at 03:09:02 PM EST
      I'm "shocked" by any new information here , but I do believe this is the first indication Ashcroft affirmatively (and impliedly defiantly) refused to sign the certification. given that Ashcroft is hardcore right winger in his own right, that tells you something about Gonzales (and his puppetmasters).

    yep, they did THAT! (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by profmarcus on Tue May 15, 2007 at 05:05:18 PM EST
    without a doubt, schumer should have done something about it immediately... i remember when the story first came out and thinking, well, ain't that just like bushco business as usual... had we had a congress with even microscopic cojones at the time, it would have triggered a hearing... now, i suspect we're going to have several years of deja vu experiences as stuff from past years pops up again and people say, "wow, they did THAT...?" yep, they did THAT, my friends, and it was even in the paper at the time... < sigh >

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    What could Schumer have done? (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Tue May 15, 2007 at 05:27:04 PM EST
    Nothing was being investigated back then, the democrats did not have and subpoena power, and there was no possibility of oversight which is why Comey resigned.

    It is shocking to see, from someone like Comey, how ruthless the WH was, and still is. Yes we know that they are crooks but to hear the mechanics of the incident that Comey actually had to tell Mueller to make sure no one be allowed to remove him from the room, is astounding.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#4)
    by Mimir on Tue May 15, 2007 at 05:36:30 PM EST
    Actually, Schumer was trying to do something about it, and it appears he was winning over Arlen Specter to the need to investigate.

    But Gonzales would not have it.  Glenn Greenwald addresses this very well today: Gonzales' yearlong effort to block Comey's testimony


    I'd say this - (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Tue May 15, 2007 at 05:37:19 PM EST
    under the law of "undue influence" in the state where I practice, going to the hospital to get someone to sign anything that could be seen as benefitting the person getting the signing done, is viewed as a "suspicious circumstance" worthy of heightened scrutiny by any judge.

    Moreso if it's (a) being done at "an odd hour", (b) being done in a hurry, (c) if people who might have some interest in it (like doctors or family members) are excluded from the proceedings, (d) if there's any degree of force or compulsion being exercised - even just verbal persuasion, or (e) the people know (or should know) the signer is doped up or in pain or medically weak.

    Of course, under "undue influence", the usual topic of the litigation is getting the new Will or Codicil tossed out and the old one back in place.  I worked a case about 5 or 10 years ago where the people who were accused of undue influence went so far as to hold a portable tape recorder at the mouth of the decedent (he died a few hours after their escapade), and getting him to say that he wanted these influencers to get the couple hundred thousand he had in some bank accounts.  The core of those cases is, though, that people find out about the chicanery.  We were never supposed to find out about the Rethugs' chicanery, which is what makes this all the more interesting - it shows the kind of people these are.

    So, while we knew people from the WH had gone over to get As*croft's signature while he was sick, today we got new detail on the level of skullduggery going on, and we got some indication that this NSA wiretapping was a Deadeye-Addington production, with The Unit as a figurehead executive producer. Or, maybe that corner of the story's just another level of "Protect Bushie" in operation.

    Fascinating, how Card simply did not acknowledge Comey's existence in the hospital room.

    Now, what I'd really like to do, is get As*croft under oath to find out whether he didn't retire, but rather was shoved out to Make Way for Gonzo as a pliable lackey in charge of DoJ was what was really needed by the Deadeye project.  Like the USAs who were too "independent".

    I also note that No-F'g-One has bothered to try commenting on my most recent diary - Priming the Deadeye Impeachment Pump - under which I see four of the proposed "charge topics" would easily fit around the Admin's conduct in this instance:  

    1.     Seditious conspiracy.
    2.     Conspiracy to violate the FISA
    3.     Violating the FISA.
    4.    Usurpation of power.

    Please, please, someone. Take the time to think about what I've written there and give it some work.

    Comey at the hospital (none / 0) (#6)
    by skdadl on Tue May 15, 2007 at 06:25:14 PM EST
    Was it known before today that Comey had actually gone to the hospital and was in the room? That things had gone that far?

    As squeaky says, it was the mechanics of what Comey arranged in the minutes before Gonzales and Card arrived that had me riveted -- that and the fact that Comey refused to see Card later without a witness.  So much of the power of his statement was in the things left unstated or understated.

    This story's been around a while... (none / 0) (#8)
    by 3waygeek on Tue May 15, 2007 at 07:42:08 PM EST
    it broke in January 2006.

    Not quite ... (none / 0) (#14)
    by skdadl on Wed May 16, 2007 at 02:45:50 AM EST
    The story has been around, yes. But has any report ever before placed Comey in the hospital room? Not that I've seen.

    On the other hand (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue May 15, 2007 at 06:54:58 PM EST
    So let me get this straight. We had a dust up between the DOJ regulars and the WH staff.

    Wow. Now. What was the result?

    Thus, the White House did not get DOJ's approval. According to Comey, he later was able to pursuade President Bush, in a one-on-one meeting, not to proceed with the plan DOJ had declined to sign-off on.

    Sounds like democracy in action to me.

    Old News? (none / 0) (#11)
    by naschkatze on Tue May 15, 2007 at 09:04:18 PM EST
    I think this story was an old rumor, but Comey's testimony today places it in the realm of fact.  I don't know at what point in 2006 Schumer could have done something about this.  Maybe someone could enlighten me, but it seems to me that the Democrats were totally dehorned until they took over in January 2007.  They couldn't bring any legislation to the floor, and I believe they were stymied into looking into the CIA Leak.  Spector, BTW, seemed totally pissed off by Schumer's line of questioning in a hearing that was ostensibly about the USA firings.

    DA (none / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue May 15, 2007 at 10:32:02 PM EST
    Speaking of ignorant, don't go near any mirrors:

    It seems to me that Gonzales had the right, as a general matter, to raise this matter with Ashcroft. However, it would have been wrong for Gonzales to try to get Ashcroft's approval if he knew or should have known that, due to illness, Ashcroft was unable properly to consider the matter. This is what Comey feared was going to happen when he rushed to the hospital, and it seems to be what Comey came to think was happening after Gonzales arrived (I don't understand, though, how Gonzales could have gotten Ashcroft to reverse the DOJ's position if he was no longer the AG -- did Gonzales not realize this?). However, nothing in Comey's account (which, admittedly, I read quickly) convinces me that Comey's impresssion is correct. Ashcroft was able to address the matter very cogently, although in Comey's plausible account he would rather not have had to.

    The Demos and their friends from the Left have wounded the military and smashed the DOJ... of course on the positive side they have managed to pass 12 bills renaming or naming some federal buildings.... and decided to sic the CIA on global warming... I wonder who they will spy on??? Will the code name be "Written On the Wind?" Or, "How We Wasted the Nations Intellogence Agency And Let The Terrorists Win?"

    What Giants these people are.

    yadda yadda, DA. You have become who you love.

    what a buffoon (none / 0) (#15)
    by Sailor on Wed May 16, 2007 at 08:53:51 AM EST
    The Demos and their friends from the Left have wounded the military and smashed the DOJ
    6 years of total rethug rule and it's the dems' fault. Sheesh. The wh & doj committed illegal, unconstitutional acts so bad that even ashcrack wouldn't go along with it.

    and gonzales is a proven serial liar and should be indicted for purjury to congress.

    And quoting the wrongwing site powerlying is just plain sick. That's like looking to o'lielly for advice on relationships or lamebaugh to just say no.

    what an amazing ability to ingest kool aid this commenter displays.

    BTW, the dems don't direct the cia and even bush agrees climate change is man made.

    The only thing missing from the lickspittle prattle was 'clinton did it'


    DA (none / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:00:45 AM EST
    The point is that Ashcroft was able.. And no one has demonstrated that anyone knew he was not able..

    If I remember correctly, Ashcroft had a painful pancreatic disease... I see nothing there that would indicate that his reasoning ability would be impacted, or that someone shouldn't see him on government business

    This is just typical Leftist Demo BS that you think is gasp!!! so important... It's not.

    jim (none / 0) (#17)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:10:38 AM EST
      I think the most important point is that we now have confirmation Ashcroft was lucid and told Gonzales and Card to go to Hell. Before this it was all pretty vague as to what occurred. The visit was reported but not this information about Ashcroft's response.  (and other details).

      John Ashcroft is not Democrat. He's not even by any stretch a moderate Republican. He's a hardcore law and order, bible-toting right winger-- and they piissed him off.


    Decon (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:26:34 PM EST
    That works for me. My point is that this democracy at work. People squabbling over a plan and concerned over their turf. Nothing to be concerned over or talk about.

    We also now know that Ashcroft and Bush got together a few days later and came up with a plan that Ashcroft could support...... Imagine. The Pres and his AG doing the discussion/advice thing..after their staff pis*ed on each other's shoes...

    Oh! The humanity of it!

    BTW - Look. Bush screwed the pooch on Social Security, didn't do jack on National Health Care, stepped on Gay Rights... and this what the Demos complain about??


    Well, (none / 0) (#27)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu May 17, 2007 at 07:38:36 AM EST
      in the end --in this instance-- Bush blinked.   But, it appears he capitulated  only  because of the threat of mass resignations from -- as you point out--   a number of his own high level people and the realization that the political fallout from that in an election year would have been worse than caving (in what he no doubt hoped would remain off-the-record for many years) and agreeing to what a DOJ run by right-wing Republicans found acceptable.

      I  guess we put Bush here a notch above Nixon in the Saturday Night Massacre but Nixon was already all but doomed  at that point and had less reason to avoid acts of political bloodshed.


    Able? (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Wed May 16, 2007 at 02:59:42 PM EST
    The point is that Ashcroft was able.. And no one has demonstrated that anyone knew he was not able..

    If Ashcroft was so "able" why was Comey the acting head of DOJ?


    ashcroft was sick enough ... (none / 0) (#18)
    by Sailor on Wed May 16, 2007 at 09:21:12 AM EST
    ... that he wasn't AG at the time, comey was.

    And how wrongwing radical must the WH be for:

    the F.B.I. director ordered Mr. Ashcroft's security detail not allow Mr. Comey "to be removed from the room under any circumstances." And after the meeting, Mr. Comey refused Mr. Card's request at 11 p.m. to go to the White House:

    I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present.

    He replied, What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.

    And I said again, After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness. And I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States.

    Sailor, squeaky, et al (none / 0) (#21)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:28:54 PM EST
    All of this by people who didn't blink an eye when the Demos declared politics to be a blood sport.

    You folks give me the the giggles.


    hahahaha (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:32:07 PM EST
    Got a link besides 'through the looking glass' where up is down and wrong is right?

    War (none / 0) (#24)
    by squeaky on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:48:49 PM EST
    Neoconservatism is the final conquest of the Republican Party movement begun with Barry Goldwater uttering in 1964: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!" He was the leading light of the Protestant Fundamentalist movement being ushered into political adolescence whose self-righteous ambitions felt no need for euphemisms. They resound like distant thunder when faced with today's newspeak.


    And compared to Leeden, Hitchens, Perle, truly distand thunder.


    Que es... (none / 0) (#22)
    by desertswine on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:30:14 PM EST
    ...mas sleazier, Alberto Gonzalez o Paul Wolfowitz

    Wolfie by a mile (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Wed May 16, 2007 at 03:52:47 PM EST
    In Ravelstein [by Saul Bellow] Wolfowitz appeared as Bloom's protégé Philip Gorman, leaking national security secrets to his mentor during the Bush Sr. war against Iraq. Strauss hovered around the novel as Bloom's mentor and guru Professor Davarr. Strauss/Davarr is really the éminence grise of Ravelstein. With friends like Bellow, Bloom did not need enemies. On the basis of Ravelstein alone, Wolfowitz warrants investigation by the F.B.I.

    Just recently the University of Chicago officially celebrated its Bush Jr. Straussian Neo-Con cabal, highlighting Wolfowitz Ph.D. '72, Ahmad Chalabi, Ph.D. '69 (the CIA's Iraqi puppet), Abram Shulsky, A.M. '68, Ph.D. '72 (head of the Pentagon's special "intelligence" unit), Zalmay Khalilzad, Ph.D. '79 (Bush Jr's roving pro-consul for Afghanistan and then Iraq), as well as faculty members Bellow, X '39, and Bloom, A.B. '49, A.M. '53, Ph.D. '55, together with Strauss. According to the University of Chicago Magazine, Bloom's rant "helped popularize Straussian ideals of democracy."16 It is correct to assert that Bloom's book helped to popularize Straussian "ideas," but they were blatantly anti-democratic, Machiavellian, Nietzschean, and elitist to begin with. Only the University of Chicago would have the unmitigated Orwellian gall to publicly assert that Strauss and Bloom cared one whit about democracy, let alone comprehended the "ideals of democracy."


    Although Gonzo is a loyal footsoldier