Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The President's Role in the Comey Crisis / Knowing Violation of the FISA Law

Josh Marshall notes that some of the major media outlets are reporting that President Bush intervened in the dispute between Comey and Ashcroft on the one hand, and Gonzalez and Card on the other. But as Josh correctly observes, Comey's testimony strongly suggested that Gonzalez and Card's late night visit to Ashcroft's hospital room was directed by the President himself. Comey testified that it was his recollection that Bush himself had called Ashcroft's wife to let her know that Gonzalez and Card were coming. Bush only relented after he was threatened with the resignations of the entire top brass of the Justice Department, as well as FBI Director Mueller.

Marty Lederman sees the president's role the same way, and also observes that Bush had "personally tried to convince Comey to change his judgment, even after DOJ had gone to such lengths to repudiate OLC's prior legal advice," and personally signed the form that Comey and Ashcroft would not sign, thereby allowing the warrantless wiretapping program NSA to continue "even though DOJ had concluded that it was legally indefensible, i.e., that it violated a criminal statute. (This is the big story that few are focusing on.)."

Bush did not mediate a dispute among subordinates; he was forced to back down because he had no choice after his attempts to bully one of the two sides failed.

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