Attorney General John Ashcroft was “feeble, barely articulate (and) “clearly stressed” when then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card visited his hospital room to push for legal approval of a warrantless wiretap program approved by President Bush, according to newly released notes from FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The notes were released Thursday by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee that is investigating the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program. Mueller’s notes of the March 10, 2004 incident outline a dispute between the Justice Department and the White House over the legality of a National Security Agency surveillance program.
“[Then deputy Attorney General James Comey] tells me Card and J. [Judge] Gonzales are on the way to hospital to see the AG, but that AG is in no condition to see them, much less make decisions to authorize continuation of the program,” Mueller writes.
Mueller’s notes show he attended meetings in Card’s office the day before the hospital visit that included Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney, among other officials. The day after the visit, Card requested a meeting with Mueller that lasted 40 minutes, after which Mueller spoke to Gonzales and met with Comey. Notes on those meetings are redacted from the released documents, which were sent to the committee from the FBI.
“Unfortunately, this heavily redacted document raises far more questions than it answers. We intend to fully investigate this incident and the underlying subject matter that evoked such widespread distress within the Department and the FBI,” Conyers said. “We will be seeking an unredacted copy of Director Mueller’s notes covering meetings before and after the hospital visit and expect to receive information from several of the individuals mentioned in the document.”
I think it’s time to revisit how Gonzales described this incident during his squirm-inducing testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
In his testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to address inaccuracies in his 2006 testimony in relation to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. “There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed,” Gonzales said at the time.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) recalled that former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified to a much different version of events. Comey said he had refused to sign on to an extension of the program “amid concerns about its legality and oversight.”
Today, Gonzales said Comey was referring to “other intelligence activities,” appearing to confirm that the Bush administration is operating more than one warrantless domestic spying program. In a heated back and forth with Specter, Gonzales stated:
The disagreement that occurred was about other intelligence activities and the reason for the visit to the hospital was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people.
Of course, later on in the testimony, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) got Gonzales to admit that the authorization he held in his hand while in AG Ashcroft’s hospital room…was for the so-called terrorist surveillance program.
Bush doesn’t dare fire Alberto Gonzales, the frail dam that’s holding back a Democratic tsunami of subpoenas and contempt of Congress proceedings. But I still think that Gonzales may be one of the impending resignations I mentioned this morning. That seat is getting very, very hot for Fredo, and as we know, cutting and running from accountability is what Republics do best…