If you looking for something to read, go to Newsweek.com and read about “Bush’s Monica Problem.” See also Christy’s comments.
This article clarifies much about the Bush Justice Department that was hazy to me, including the role played by John Yoo. It also reveals there was a major standoff between the Justice Department and the White House over warrantless wiretapping, with as many as 30 top DoJ officials threatening to resign.
I’m only going to quote a couple of paragraphs —
Bush’s role has remained shadowy throughout the controversy over the eavesdropping program. But there are strong suggestions that he was an active presence. On the night after Ashcroft’s operation, as Ashcroft lay groggy in his bed, his wife, Janet, took a phone call. It was Andy Card, asking if he could come over with Gonzales to speak to the attorney general. Mrs. Ashcroft said no, her husband was too sick for visitors. The phone rang again, and this time Mrs. Ashcroft acquiesced to a visit from the White House officials. Who was the second caller, one with enough power to persuade Mrs. Ashcroft to relent? The former Ashcroft aide who described this scene would not say, but senior DOJ officials had little doubt who it wasâ€”the president. (The White House would not comment on the president’s role.) Ashcroft’s chief of staff, David Ayres, then called Comey, Ashcroft’s deputy, to warn him that the White House duo was on the way. With an FBI escort, Comey raced to the hospital to try to stop them, but Ashcroft himself was strong enough to turn down his White House visitors’ request.
The morning after the scene at Ashcroft’s hospital bed, the president met with Comey. “We had a full and frank discussion, very informed. He was very focused,” Comey later testified, choosing his words carefully. But it wasn’t until Bush had met with Mueller that the president agreed to take steps (still unspecified, but probably involving more oversight) to bring the eavesdropping program back inside the boundaries of the law. Mueller has never said what he told the president, but it is a good bet that he said he would resign if the changes were not made. Bush could not afford to see Mueller go, nor could he risk losing the rest of the Justice Department leadership over a matter of principle in an election year.
After this, a noticable chill set in between Ashcroft’s team at DoJ and the White House. Over the next few months Ashcroft and several other top DoJ officials decided to spend more time with their families. The article suggests that in Ashcroft’s case this was not entirely voluntary.
Solicitor General Ted Olson was also out, either voluntarily or otherwise. Remember, Olson personally represented Bush in the Bush v. Gore SCOTUS case. He also provided assistance to Paula Jones’s legal team in their case against President Clinton, and was a big public cheerleader for Kenneth Starr and his witch hunts. More recently Olson signed off on Wolfie’s girlfriend’s compensation package. If Olson isn’t a team player, I don’t know who is. Yet even he bailed out of the DoJ.
Update: Emptywheel says the Newsweek story gets the time frame wrong:
The hospital confrontation happened on March 10. The pact to resign may have happened on March 10 or 11 (Comey had a resignation letter dated March 10, but Ashcroft’s chief of staff persuaded him to hold off until Ashcroft could resign at the same time). March 11 was the day of the Madrid train bombings which didn’t, Chuck Schumer made sure to point out, dissuade Comey from resigning. And the discussion between Bush and Comey and, then, Mueller, happened on March 12.
So who cares? Why worry about the dates?
Simply, because by collapsing this two day period into one, you avoid noting one of the most important parts of this story: on his own authority, Bush reauthorized the program without the support from DOJ. The program operated for at least 24 hours without even the promise of changes to satisfy the DOJ.
Maybe this is just sloppy editing. But given that Isikoff had a hand in this article, I find it troubling that a narrative trying to tie all these events together ignores Bush’s clear contempt for the law (it does, however, provide a useful description of Bush’s role in calling Mrs. Ashcroft to get Gonzales and Card admitted into the hospital). It’s not just that Gonzales and Card attempted to override Comey’s acting authority, this story is primarily about Bush’s role overriding the counsel of those paid to offer that counsel.
The Newsweek story also allows a Bushie shill to have the next-to-last word:
Goodling’s only crime was her lack of subtlety, said Mark Corallo, the Justice Department’s chief of public affairs under Ashcroft, and Goodling’s onetime boss. “She probably was a little too overt about it,” Corallo told NEWSWEEK. “But let’s face itâ€”the Democrats do this, too, they all do it. The idea that career employees are above politics is total crap. The so-called career employees are mostly liberal Democrats.” He noted that in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, career employees refused for months to hang portraits of Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft.
Emptywheel questions whether U.S. Attorney’s offices normally feature photos of the vice president. And she asks, “Were career prosecutors objecting to one picture, presumably replacing pictures of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno? Or were career prosecutors objecting to the kind of hagiography that brought down the Soviet Union?”
That’s a story I’d like to hear.
Update 2: Knee slapper du jour — “Seriously, if Ann Coulter had been born a girl, she’d probably look something like Monica Goodling.”