Trouble appears to be growing for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Now, two high-level officials (one current, one former) appear to have contradicted Gonzales’s account of the 2004 hospital visit Gonzales made to then Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that the topic discussed during the hospital visit was not the terrorist surveillance program but related intelligence activities, seemingly contradicting earlier congressional testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
But this afternoon, FBI Director Robert Mueller appears to have echoed Comey's account during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, saying that the topic of discussion was in fact the terrorist surveillance program. The National Security Agency-run program eavesdropped on terrorist suspects without court-approved warrants until it was put under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Mueller's testimony could give legs to Democratic senators' calls today for special counsel investigation into whether Gonzales perjured himself with this testimony.
According to Comey’s dramatic account, Gonzales, then White House counsel, and Andy Card, then White House chief of staff, visited Ashcroft at his hospital bed after Comey refused to sign off on the reauthorization of the warrantless wiretapping program on the eve of its scheduled expirationin March 2004. Comey rushed to the hospital to block the request, asking Mueller to instruct FBI agents to make sure he was not forced out of the room when Gonzales and Card arrived.
Asked about this request today, Mueller replied, “It was out of the ordinary.”