MICHAEL COLLINS: COMEY’S EVIDENCE OF A CRIME
Bush, Gonzales, Card Clearly Implicated
Tuesday was a remarkable day at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. The exchange between Sen. Charles Schumer, R, NY and former Deputy Attorney General James Comey provides clear evidence pointing to criminal activity by the president, U.S Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former presidential advisor, Andrew Card. If Comey’s testimony is supported by other reliable witnesses, the Bush, Gonzales, and Card crew have some serious questions to answer.
Schumer got right to the point when he asked that Comey confirm “media reports of a dramatic visit by Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card” to the hospital room of an ailing and stricken John Ashcroft in early March, 2004
Why were they visiting Ashcroft in the hospital? Ashcroft, then the U.S. Attorney General, was gravely ill and had designated his deputy James Comey as acting attorney general. Previously, they had reviewed and rejected modifications to an unspecified federal program requiring a Department of Justice (DOJ) signature “…attesting as to its legality” Comey testified.
Shortly before the deadline for DOJ approval, Comey and the Attorney General met concerning strategy to deal with the legal problems included in the White House program. Just hours later, Ashcroft was admitted to the George Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C. due to of complications from “a severe case of Gallstone Pancreatitis.” At that point, Comey became Acting U.S. Attorney General.
The White House was very displeased with the acting Attorney General Comey’s rejection of its pet project. This program was just identified as “an extension of the secret NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.” The White House representatives were at the hospital to get the ailing Ashcroft to overrule the man he’d named Acting Attorney General.
The Schumer-Comey exchange is densely packed with material that will appall just about everyone from average citizens to legal experts.
- Forced call to a very ill man. Ashcroft’s wife ordered that no calls come through to the sick and disoriented Ashcroft. Only one caller was able to override her instructions. Comey testified, “I have some recollection that the call was from the president…” The White House call was reported to Comey by David Ayers, Ashcroft’s chief of staff. Mrs. Ashcroft told Ayers that the caller indicated that then presidential counsel Alberto Gonzalez and Bush advisor Andrew Card were on their way to the hospital.
- Don’t throw him out! Before the White House duo arrived, the tipped off Comey diverted a trip home to rush to Ashcroft’s hospital room. He reported a phone exchange with FBI Director William Mueller: “Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.” Comey, Mueller or both anticipated a danger that Comey would be physically barred from Ashcroft’s hospital room. Mueller’s order to agents showed that he wanted Comey present at any meeting with Gonzales and Card in the hospital.
- We know you’re very ill but… Gonzales and Card arrived with an envelope and immediately pressed Ashcroft to give DOJ authorization for the program.. A stricken Ashcroft sat up briefly and dispatched the White House representatives with dramatic flair saying “I’m not the attorney general.” The implication was clear. The White House had to deal with Comey.
- “I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.”
The courtly Comey went as far as his sense of restraint would allow. Nothing much more needs be said of Gonzalez, Card, and White House caller who announced their impending arrival. Taking advantage of “a very sick man” is about as low as it gets on the ethics scale.
After all this, Comey was ready to resign in protest. There was a follow up call to Comey from Andrew Card after the hospital visit where he and Gonzales totally ignored Comey. There were also meetings at Justice. Comey and other senior attorneys were planning a group resignation as a result of the affair. We were headed for replay of the Nixon Saturday Night Massacre.
In what should be the most studied exchange, Comey indicates that the surveillance law was implemented without DOJ approval.
Schumer: Right. And you stated that the next day, Thursday, was the deadline for reauthorization of the program, is that right?
Comey: Yes, sir.
Schumer: OK. Can you tell us what happened the next day?
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