The James Comey testimony yesterday was brutal. It spun the tale of a late-night run to get a sick man in a weakened state to re-authorize a program of illegal warrantless wiretapping.
View some of the testimony (8 min):
PBS has transcripts, audio, and video as well.
Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had just undergone emergency gallbladder surgery at George Washington University Hospital, and Comey was serving as acting attorney general. At that same time, White House officials were seeking Justice Department recertification of the secret domestic wiretapping program conducted by the National Security Agency.
Comey said he and Ashcroft had discussed the program a week earlier and had decided against recertifying it.
JAMES COMEY: Over the next week, particularly the following week, on Tuesday, we communicated to the relevant parties at the White House and elsewhere our decision that, as acting attorney general, I would not certify the program as to its legality, and explained our reasoning in detail…
On the night of March 10th, 2004, Comey learned that then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card were on their way to Ashcroft’s hospital room.
JAMES COMEY: … told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up, literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.
Comey then sped off and got out of the car and ran to Ashcroft’s room. The rest of the story is an amazing tale of Bush’s henchmen trying to get a sick man to sign off on something he had said he didn’t want to. In the end, BushCo re-authorized the illegal warrantless wiretapping program without DOJ approval and Comey tendered his resignation.
CBS and ABC both ignore this story on their evening and morning broadcasts. Bush does get asked about it and gives his standard shoulder shrug “sensitive program” answers:
Classified information and national security interests used to mean something. This administration has cheapened them into meaning political cover for a corrupt administration. The clock is ticking and their time is up…
Will this mean the end of the AG? Arlen Specter seems to think so. Dems go on the attack by calling for no confidence vote. I think at this point there are now 6 Republican Senators calling for Bush to fire the AG.
Meanwhile, an investigation might open into whether or not Card and Gonzales’ visit to the hospital was illegal. Stay tuned…