May 16, 2007

Gonzales Pressured Ashcroft on Program, Comey Says

Gonzales holds the rule of law ``in minimum low regard,''

Alberto Gonzales pressured then- Attorney General John Ashcroft while he was hospitalized in 2004 to recertify a classified program whose legality was questioned by the Justice Department, the agency's former No. 2 official told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified that he and other Justice Department officials planned to resign after the visit to Ashcroft's hospital bed by Gonzales, then White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Comey was acting attorney general because of Ashcroft's illness. He wouldn't specify the program at issue, though panel members said it apparently was secret wiretapping of suspected terrorists.
``I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something'' that the Justice Department had concluded ``was unable to be certified as to its legality,'' Comey told the Senate panel in Washington. Comey said Vice President Dick Cheney also had told him he disagreed with the department's stance.
Comey was called before the committee today to testify about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys that have led to calls for Gonzales's resignation by Democrats and some Republicans. President George W. Bush has continued to support his attorney general.

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