Thursday, May 17, 2007
And When I Was Tired, I Was Tired of Lying
First, it appears that the White House was willing (and in fact did, for a time) authorize a program that the Justice Department--including the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the head of the OLC, and the FBI Director--had determined to be illegal. And if all of these people had not threatened to simultaneously resign, it is very likely that the White House would simply have continued renewing this program without the Justice Department's blessing. That's a rather stunning fact, and one that I wish at least a few mainstream journalists would attempt to grasp the significance of. The White House authorized a program that everyone of significance in the Justice Department had determined to be lacking any legal basis. They willfully violated the law.
That is about as clear an indictment as can be assembled. Stunning indeed.There are a host of great posts on this topic, and Mona and Hilzoy have most link-bases covered (as well as their own contributions, as usual). In particular, check out the Marty Lederman links they provide...
[UPDATE: I wanted to add one more thought on this, which I touched on in comments to Mona's post. This episode has inspired a new-found respect for John Ashcroft. What the narrative revealed by Comey tells me is that the Ashcroft has limits. I disagree with much of his basic outlook on political matters, but there are at least overriding legal and Constitutional principles that he will not abandon - even when pressured by his boss.
That is probably a low bar to set for the nation's number one law enforcement officer, but in this administration, he’s an overachiever.
Gonzales, on the other hand, is a man with barely a shred of integrity. His principles are defined as: whatever the President wants to do. Literally. The hollow man. If there is a Constitutional/legal boundary that he is not willing to cross, we haven't seen it yet. From torture, to indefinite detention without Constitutional rights for US citizens, to illegal, warrantless wiretapping.
Not only would Gonzales never have balked at signing the desired authorization (as Ashcroft did) Gonzales actually accompanied Andy Card to the Ashcroft’s sick bed to try to coax it out of him at a time when Ashcroft's capacity was compromised.Next to Cheney, he is the worst character this administration has managed to produce. And that, obviously, is saying a lot.
UPDATE II: One more for the kitty from Benjamin Wittes (via Laura Rozen):
At least as Comey relates it, this affair is not one of mere bad judgment or over-aggressiveness. It is a story of profound misconduct on Gonzales's part that, at least in my judgment, borders on the impeachable. Put bluntly, faced with a Justice Department determination that the NSA's program contained prohibitive legal problems, the White House decided to go ahead with it anyway. In pursuit of this goal, Gonzales did two things that both seem unforgivable: He tried to get a seriously ill man to unlawfully exercise powers that had been conveyed to another man and to use those powers to approve a program the department deemed unlawful. Then, when Ashcroft refused, the White House went ahead and authorized the program on its own. In terms of raw power, the president has the ability to take this step. But it constitutes a profound affront to the institutional role of the Justice Department as it has developed. The Justice Department is the part of the government that defines the law for the executive branch. For the White House counsel to defy its judgment on an important legal question is to put the rawest power ahead of the law.Impeach Gonzales now.]