Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Desktop Coup d'Etat

AMY GOODMAN: We just interviewed Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who wrote the book Angler about the Cheney vice presidency, how the government almost fell soon after that, when, finally, the President called in Comey and said, you know, “Why am I dealing with this at the last minute?” and Comey had already written his resignation letter and said that Mueller was going to resign, as well, that day over this.

MURRAY WAAS: Well, to take a couple steps back, before that, what happened in the hospital room was, the Attorney General’s wife, Mrs. Ashcroft, informed her chiefs of staff what was going on. And then he called up—he called everybody—Comey, Mueller—and so, they all raced to the hospital. They careened down Pennsylvania Avenue with their sirens on. They raced up the steps. And James Comey, the very straight-arrow Deputy Attorney General, got to the hospital room about five minutes before Gonzales and Card. And Mueller, the FBI director, to give you an idea of this drama, said—told the security detail, Ashcroft’s security detail, under no circumstances were Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales to be alone with John Ashcroft, that James Comey was to be with them at all times, because he didn’t trust them, you know, to be alone with Ashcroft.

And so, in the hospital room, Ashcroft and Card come in, make their case—I’m sorry, Gonzales and Card come in and make their case. And Ashcroft, who’s deathly ill, somehow pulls himself up just for a moment, before he collapses, and says, “I’m not Attorney General. There is the Attorney General; James Comey is the Acting Attorney General. Deal with him.” And so, they leave, not getting Ashcroft’s signature.

And so, what they do the next day is they decide to go ahead with the program without the Attorney General’s signature. And so, what they did is they had a computer-generated copy of this document, and they simply removed the place where the Attorney General should sign and put a line for Alberto Gonzales to sign. And so, Gonzales and the President signed this authorization to continue with this program, despite the fact that their own Justice Department said if they did so, they’d be doing something illegal.

And then, it was the following day that Comey and Mueller kind of argued with them some more, and Bush, you know, backed off and withdrew the authorization or agreed to work with it until it got, you know, within a legal framework.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, now, coming full circle, where does that leave Alberto Gonzales, and what is he doing today, and what do you think he should be doing?

MURRAY WAAS: I think he’s spending a lot of time with lawyers, and he—because he has a lot of stuff that he has—he has this US attorney investigation he has to face. But I think the greater legal jeopardy is lying about—lying under oath about the surveillance program and this new thing, creating these fictitious notes, because when Gonzales and Bush signed the authorization, it was these fictitious, made-up notes that was one of the bases for the President to sign it. So that’s a very serious issue. And so, there are so many legal threats to this particular former attorney general.

AMY GOODMAN: And these are criminal?

MURRAY WAAS: They’re criminal, yeah.

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