I was originally going to call this diary So, did you call Mrs. Ashcroft, George? but then Kagro X posted another front page story about the NSA program which, as much as I can’t believe I am saying it, is moving me from the “it would be great if he/they were impeached” camp into the “they did WHAT? Are you fucking kidding me???” camp.
While I still think that Gonzales, for all of the lines he has crossed, for all of the acts that he has sanctioned, laws he has disregarded, treaties he has rendered as “quaint” and collusion with others in this administration – he is the last line of defense for Bush and the republican party as a whole. My gut feel is that all of this goes back to election fraud and while there may be more egregiously illegal acts, that is the one that will resonate further with the electorate if and when enough comes out.
However, the events of the past few days, especially Comey’s testimony on the illegal recertification of the NSA program, despite objections by Comey, Ashcroft and the DOJ have made me think that we have more than Bush “just” admitting to an impeachable offense. What about direct involvement in obstructing justice, exerting pressure on a critically ill Attorney General (who was reported to be “out of it” at the time) to certify a program that was already deemed to be illegal, then continuing the illegal program and, here is the kicker, selectively blocking investigations while allowing investigations of those who reported this illegal act.
No, none of this is “breaking news” other than the testimony by Comey (which isn’t even breaking to us). But it does raise some specific points that hit to plausible deniability. This has been the “get out of jail free card” (literally) for Reagan in the Iran-Contra fiasco, among others. And it is something that this administration knows and uses well – especially since Cheney’s hero, Richard Nixon didn’t have it.
As ridiculous as it may sound (and as much as it would make Gonzales look even worse than he already looks), Bush could, in theory, have indicated that he relied on Gonzales (as White House Counsel) and Card (as his Chief of Staff) with respect to the certification process – did he at the time know that DOJ refused to sign off on it? Or could Gonzales have said to Bush – even after his and Card’s late night raid of Ashcroft’s hospital room – yes, we were able to get the verbal approval that the program was legal? I know, it sounds absolutely insane, and would mean one of two things: (1) Gonzales lied in telling Bush that the program was legal when he knew that DOJ wouldn’t sign off on it, or (2) Gonzales didn’t lie to Bush, but Bush lied about being advised that it was ok.
Now, #2 would seem to be extremely difficult to prove, except for one thing: Comey’s testimony that he “had some recollection that the call” [to Ashcroft’s hospital room to Mrs. Ashcroft] “was from the president himself”. This of course begs the question - Did Bush make that call to Mrs. Ashcroft, and if so, what was the purpose?
If Bush made the call, then plausible deniability goes “bye-bye” and we have absolute proof that Bush himself intervened to make an incapacitated Attorney General (who gave up his post temporarily to Comey anyway) sign off on a program that he and his Deputy both deemed to be illegal – and then went ahead with the illegal program anyway. If he didn’t make that call, then there is still “plausible deniability” – as scummy as that is. But if he did make that call, then I don’t see how he escapes the proof that he broke at least a few laws willingly.
Move forward to Kagro X’s other front page post. In this post, there is the point that the investigation into whether Gonzales or others broke the law in recertifying the illegal program was being thwarted and blocked, all while an investigation into how the New York Times found out about this program was being pushed forward. In the comments section, I asked whether Bush himself stepped in here or someone else would have been responsible for granting or denying security clearances related to the investigations. And as Kagro X replied:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today that President Bush personally halted an internal Justice Department investigation into whether Gonzales and other senior department officials acted within the law in approving and overseeing the administration's domestic surveillance program. (http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/0718nj1.htm)
I highly recommend reading the Waas post that is linked. But essentially, what this means is not only did Bush (presumably) personally intervene by calling Ashcroft’s hospital room but he personally thwarted the investigation into the events surrounding the recertification process (also presumably by denying security clearances in what was called an “unprecedented manner”) all while pushing for an investigation into those who “spilled the beans” on this illegality. Additionally, as Kagro X points out as well – who was the one who had Bush nix this investigation, and did he (or did Gonzales) know at the time that Gonzales would be under investigation. But I’ll leave that to those who are more well versed in that aspect.
To me, I learned a few huge things today:
- If Bush made the call to Ashcroft’s hospital room (as Comey suggested), that puts him square in the middle of this and removes any plausible deniability;
- The hospital confrontation would have been a major part of the investigation that Bush himself thwarted – all while allowing an investigation into those who reported the truth about the recertification; and
- Either Gonzales lied to Bush or BOTH Bush and Gonzales lied about obstructing the investigation.
All of the loose ends that have been reported over the past year or so by Murray Waas, by Kagro X and by all of the others who have been following this are starting to tie together. And they look like they are tying together into a noose for this administration.
It can’t get any more blatant or simple than this.
- Bush, his Chief of Staff and White House Counsel intervened to make something deemed illegal by his own DOJ certified as legal;
- When it was not declared legal, they did it anyway;
- Bush personally blocked the investigation into (i.e., obstructing justice) something that he, his Chief of Staff and his Counsel did which was illegal.
Now, Congress MUST do something with this noose. And I don’t mean hang themselves.