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May 16, 2007

Comey's Testimony

For my money, the most remarkable part of James Comey's genuinely astonishing testimony comes when he rushes to John Ashcroft's hospital room to intercept Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales and got the director of the FBI to order the agents guarding Ashcroft to disobey Gonzales and Card if they demanded Comey's ejection. Think about the disarray in that administration: The President;s Chief of Staff and top legal advisor are rushing to jawbone the sedated attorney general who's recovering from surgery. The AG's #2 demands his driver turn on the sirens and lights so he arrives first, and anticipating a power play, gets the head of the FBI to sanction his presence.

Meanwhile, for those who remember the conviction undergirding conservative assurances that the eavesdropping was, like, totally legal, it's worth noting that a Republican-led Department of Justice almost saw mass resignations because it so clearly violated the law and they weren't willing to go down in history as the team that politicized the DoJ.

May 16, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

If this same scenario, and the same script was put up on the screen in some West Wing kind of drama, it would seem over-amped amd incredible. Yet it's true.

Can you imagine the tension and pressure over those weeks? And we still have no clue as to what the WH was trying to do that Main Justice found so blatantly illegal that they were willing to empty out, by resignations, the top echelon of the Department!

This does shed light on Gonzales as AG, and his troop of fools, like dear Monica. Just as with Porter Goss and the CIA, a rogue agency had to be tamed.

Posted by: wendell | May 16, 2007 1:02:59 AM

Was interesting that Ashcroft refused to go along with the requests from the White House. Comey made him sound pretty good in this episode. Bush backed the Justice Department over Cheney and others after Comey and the FBI director Mueller spoke to him and threatened to resign. Not sure how much credit he should get for that, as it may have been a tactical retreat, but he could have done worse.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 16, 2007 1:25:46 AM

It is truly amazing. Comey didn't go to the hospital alone - he rounded up some senior staff to take along as the posse - after getting the FBI director on the case as well.

I'd give $1,000. to have a video of the scene when Gonzales and Card arrived at the hospital and found the posse waiting for them. It's reported that Gonzales and Card never acknowledged the presence of the DJ Senior Staff and DAG at the hospital. Just the riff-raff, they must have thought.

And when Comey and Mueller went later to the White House at Card's 'request', Card wouldn't let Mueller into his office (Comey wanted a witness!).

All this would be slightly more believable in the Kremlin pre-Putin.

And, although Gonzales and Card didn't get Comey to immediately fold, even after the late night WH meeting, they implemented the program without Justice Dept agreement that the program was legal, and then went back later for a watered-down program of some kind that they got DJ approval for much after the fact. We still don't know what the program they wanted approved contained.

This couldn't be more of a run-around of our legal order than if they had gone to the SCOTUS and threatened some knee-caping if Roe wasn't overturned, or the imperial, err. unitary executive sanctified.

But, most startling of all, Bush later talked to Comey directly and alone, so clearly Bush has known that his Alberto and Andrew henchmen tried to run around the DJ and go to a recused Atty Gen. under sedation to get their dirty tricks signed off on. So, when Bush says he has full confidence in the AG, he knows he's approving more unlawful behavior yet ahead.

Mrs. Ashcroft comes out of this (with her husband) looking like the paragons of democratic virtue.

After this, anyone who says Bush wouldn't declare martial law and postpone the 08 elections hasn't been paying attention.

I can't wait to hear how Fred Jones rationalizes this farcical run-around on the constitutional mandate that the President must take care to see the laws are faithfully executed.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 16, 2007 1:31:52 AM

After this, anyone who says Bush wouldn't declare martial law and postpone the 08 elections hasn't been paying attention.

Paranoia. Think he'll launch his war in Iran at the same time?

Posted by: Sanpete | May 16, 2007 1:43:31 AM

Great article by Dahlia Lithwick on this (http://www.slate.com/id/2166213)

Here's the final graf--

Today's revelations shouldn't be much of a surprise. Gonzales had nothing but contempt for the Justice Department back when he worked for the president, and he has nothing but contempt for the Justice Department now that he, well, still works for the president. Nevertheless, if this whole sordid U.S. attorney scandal wanted for a metaphor, it need search no longer. Here's the Rule of Law lying in critical condition in its hospital bed, while the man now charged with its stewardship runs roughshod over it, all in the name of expanding presidential power.

Posted by: Doh | May 16, 2007 9:22:49 AM

"The AG's #2 demands his driver ..."

But this isn't right, and that's what makes the story even more remarkable. Comey WASN'T the #2. He was the #1, the acting AG. Ashcroft had no authority at that time. Yet, Card and Gonzales didn't care about the niceties of this legal transfer of power. They just wanted to strong arm someone they thought was on their team. Kind of like when your mom would tell you that you couldn't go out past 9pm, so you went to your dad and asked him if you could.

Worse than Watergate.

Posted by: Jeff | May 16, 2007 9:27:46 AM

I think the most amazing part of the testimony is when he says that he has been thinking for three years how he would answer these questions IF he were ever asked... and that he was almost never asked.

Posted by: mdale | May 17, 2007 1:03:54 AM

The Republican't will rediscover their love of the Rule of Law as soon as we have a Democratic President. Probably right around Jan 09.

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