IMPEACHMENT: "Did the President ask you to go?"
July 24, 2007 Oversight Hearings of the U.S. Department of Justice
Senate Committee on the Judiciary Video can be seen here or here.
On May 18th, “Scoop” reported that the testimony of James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft, provided evidence of a crime in which Bush, Gonzales, and Card” were clearly implicated. It was apparent that Bush had ordered his then counsel Alberto Gonzales and adviser, Andrew Card, to the sick bed of an ailing and sedated John Ashcroft. Their mission was to obtain Ashcroft’s signature authorizing warrant-less surveillance of Americans.
Ashcroft had stepped down temporarily due to his pending hospital stay. His deputy, James Comey, became acting Attorney General. Comey had refused to sign the authorization since he, Ashcroft and senior Justice Department lawyers found it highly objectionable. Over the objection of Ashcroft’s wife, the two entered the hospital room and made their case. Ashcroft rose from his sick bed to refuse. Gonzales and card failed in their mission.
Today’s testimony by still U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary provides a major clue as to the direction future impeachment charges might take, should they be brought.
First a brief recap
of the May 18th article.
Tuesday was a remarkable day at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. The exchange between Sen. Charles Schumer, R, NY and former Deputy Attorney General James Comey provides clear evidence pointing to criminal activity by the president, U.S Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former presidential advisor, Andrew Card. If Comey’s testimony is supported by other reliable witnesses, the Bush, Gonzales, and Card crew have some serious questions to answer.
The article went on to describe questions that might be very troubling.
There are at least two major problems facing the participants in this affair.
First, the White House attempted to obtain approval for a program that they knew the acting Attorney General would not approve. Second, they sought this approval from someone without authority, Ashcroft. He stepped down due to his illness and passed authority to Comey.
Of great significance, however, is the fact that the program was implemented. It doesn’t matter if it was for an hour, a day or a week. Comey tells us warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens was implemented without the required DOJ approval due to Comey’s unwillingness to attest “as to its legality.”
Seeking approval from someone without authority while that someone, John Ashcroft, was heavily sedated is certainly a crime. Having that enterprise end in failure and then implementing the program anyway is further evidence of a crime.
The program was implemented without authorization as indicated by this exchange between Comey and Schumer:
Schumer: Right. And you stated that the next day, Thursday, was the deadline for reauthorization of the program, is that right?
Comey: Yes, sir.
Schumer: OK. Can you tell us what happened the next day?
Comey: The program was reauthorized without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality. And I prepared a letter of resignation, intending to resign the next day, Friday, March the 12th
Both Sides Tip Their Hands: Look at Today’s Testimony in Light of the Above
Transcript compiled from recording: Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) questions U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Justice Department Over site Hearings, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. July 24, 2007.
The following transcript is annotated in italics by the author.
Schumer: Let me ask you this. Who sent you to the hospital?
Gonzales: Senator what I can say is we had a very important meeting at the White House over one of the most important…
Schumer: I didn’t ask you that.
Gonzales: I’m answering your question senator if I could?
Schumer: Who sent you? Did anyone tell you to go?
Gonzales: It was one of the most important programs for the United States. It had been authorized by the president. I’ll just say that the chief of staff to the President of the United States, the counsel for the President of the United States went to the hospital on behalf of the President of the United States.
Schumer: Did the president ask you to go?
This is the key question. Sen. Schumer’s sole purpose is to get Gonzales to admit, to confirm what everyone knows. Bush told Gonzales and Card to go to Ashcroft’s hospital bed and get his signature.
Gonzales: We were there in behalf of the President of the United States.
The colloquy begins. Gonzales is not going to say that the president asked him to go. He begins his first of several uses of on “behalf of the president” as a diversion. “Behalf” leaves open the possibility that Card and Gonzales went just because they thought it was a good idea (“Let’s surprise the boss and get Ashcroft to sign this thing.”) This leaves the opening that Bush didn’t order the trip with its clear criminal implications (See Comey article, 18 May 2007)
Schumer: I didn’t ask you that. Did the president ask you to go?
Gonzales: Senator we were there on behalf of the President of the United States
Schumer: Why can’t you answer that question?
Schumer knows what is going on with “behalf” and he won’t tolerate it. He makes clear that Gonzales is not answering.
Gonzales: That’s the answer I can give you Senator
“…the answer I can give you…” Why is this all he “can” give. Because Gonzales was counsel to the president at this time, the president’s lawyer. Obviously Gonzales does not have his former client’s permission to answer this question. Privilege applies and this is the answer he gives as the former lawyer for the president.
Schumer: Well can you explain to me why you can’t answer it directly?
Gonzales: Senator, again we were there on an important program for this president on behalf of the President of the United States.
This “important program” is said to be the NSA civilian phone monitoring program; the one that Comey and Ashcroft wouldn’t approve in the form it was presented. The form of the program was so offensive, there was a mass resignation about to occur at the Department of Justice..
Schumer: Did you talk to the president about it beforehand?
Schumer broadens the time frame for a presidential request for the visit.
Gonzales: Senator, obviously there were a lot of discussions that happened during that period of time. This involved one of the president’s premier programs.
It seems as thought Gonzales is saying that there was a request or order by the president prior to the meeting but this is not specific.
Schumer: But sir you’re before this committee. You are before this committee. You are supposed to answer questions. You’ve not claimed any privilege. I don’t think there is any here, and I asked you to answer and you refuse to answer it. Why?.
Gonzales: Senator … if I can answer the question I will answer the question.
Schumer: But could you tell me why can’t you answer that question?
Gonzales: Senator because again this relates to activities that existed when I was with in White House and because of that, with respect to your specific question, I will go back, I will go back and see whether or not I can answer the question.
This is more on Gonzales excuse for not answering the question – attorney-client privilege. In his view, privilege applies unless his client at that time, the President of the United States, waives privilege.
Schumer: Did the Vice President send you?
For the record, Sen. Schumer takes one last shot..
Gonzales: Senator, we were there on behalf of the president
Schumer: Did you talk to the Vice President about it?
Gonzales: We were there on behalf of the president.
Schumer: You will not answer that question as well. Is that correct?
Gonzales: We were there on behalf …if I can … I’d be would be happy to take back your question if we can respond to it we well.
Clearly, Gonzales will not answer any question that implicates Bush as ordering the visit, thus participating in a conspiracy to commit illegal acts, as outlined in Comey’s May 18, 2007 testimony before Sen. Schumer.
Sen. Schumer On Point
Senator Schumer was amazingly on point during this line of questioning; even more so than when his questioning of Comey established the probability of crimes committed by Bush, Card, and Gonzales. When Schumer clearly became aware that he would get no answer, he only gave Gonzales one chance to bring up attorney-client privilege. Schumer asked, “Well can you explain to me why you can’t answer it directly?”
Schumer also stayed tightly focused, to his great advantage, when Gonzales tried on several occasions to bring national security into the testimony as an excuse for the act he won’t acknowledge Bush committing (ordering the visit). At the very beginning, Gonzales tries to divert the discussion to national security by referring to a “very important meeting …one of the most important…” Schumer responded quickly with “I didn’t ask you that” to put Gonzales back on task, Schumer’s task. A bit later, Gonzales refers to one of the “premier programs” and “an important program.” Had Schumer taken the bait, Gonzales would have raised the terrorist threat that was the excuse for the domestic surveillance program they were trying to legitimize (after the fact, perhaps). Schumer stayed on task, focused on who ordered the visit.
Gonzales was damned if he answered and damned if he didn’t. Had he said “Well attorney client privilege applies,” Schumer might have responded: “So the president told you not to answer any questions about his ordering you and Card to the hospital to Ashcroft’s sick bet in order to obtain a signature from a highly sedated man who was not in a position to sign legally in the first place.”
By not explicating the attorney-client privilege excuse, Gonzales looks like a fool to the public. “Why won’t he answer those questions,” the typical viewer asks. At this point, Americans are well beyond a willingness to decipher the hidden meanings between the lines. It simply looks like Gonzales is a slippery character, one they don’t particularly trust in the first place.
Here’s Why Gonzales Won’t Answer
Obviously Bush ordered the visit to get the signature. Card and Gonzales would have broken the first rule of the Bush White House, disloyalty to the boss. Is there anyone in America who has been awake for any of the past seven years who thinks that they would free lance, cross the boss?
Since Bush did order the visit, he’s part of a group action, also known as a conspiracy, to commit illegal acts. Those are outlined above and in the May 18th article. Participation in such an activity is clearly defined in federal code:
Section 371. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. 18USC371 U.S. Code as of: 01/19/04
Senator Charles Schumer’s questioning of Gonzales lays the groundwork for impeachment of the president based on the most odious crime imaginable, trying to take advantage of a sick man, a man recovering from surgery, a man whose wife has insisted that there be no visitors. It’s not only a “high crime,” it’s a heinous one as well.
Special thanks to internet poster aaronbees for posting the video link on DemocraticUnderground.Com and poster Mind_Your_Head his comment on the significance of the May 18th snip from the “Scoop” article on Comey.
Permission to reprint in part or whole with a link to this article in “Scoop” and attribution to the author.