I have read the story many times (but never in this much detail) and it still amazes me. Who’d’ve thought that, one day, we’d think of John Ashcroft as a hero of the people?
Gonzales, in an attempt to persuade Ashcroft to sign the certification, simply misled Ashcroft. Gonzales told Ashcroft he had met earlier that day with congressional leaders who, he claimed, supported the continuation of the program without Department of Justice approval, and were determined to find a legislative remedy that would address the legal concerns of Comey and others. Several of the legislative leaders who had been at that meeting with Gonzales and Vice President Cheney say that Gonzalesâ€™s account of what transpired was simply not true.
In response to Gonzalesâ€™s and Cardâ€™s gambits, Ashcroft, according to Comey, â€œstunned me â€¦ lifted his head off the pillow,â€ and then told Gonzales and Card, â€œIâ€™m not the attorney general.â€ Mustering all the energy he had left, he pointed toward Comey and resolutely said, â€œThere is the attorney general.â€
Even in the face of Ashcroftâ€™s refusal to certify the program as being within the law, President Bush initially reauthorized the surveillance program on his own.
In this telling, the who thing was ordered by Bush.
That evening, the FBI logged a call from the president of the United States. No one had the nerve to refuse him. The phone rang at Ashcroftâ€™s bedside. Bush told his ailing cabinet chief that Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card were on their way.
Apparently, Gonzales’s strategy is to claim that he was just following orders. This was Bush gets away using executive priviledge or – more likely – a free pardon from the incoming pres and Gonzales gets charged with a lesser crime.