This great catch by Marcy Wheeler might be the most shocking nugget of all from the IGs report on surveillance.
The report goes into some detail about that famous visit made by Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales to then-AG John Ashcroft, when Ashcroft was in the hospital, and essentially incapacitated, after gall bladder surgery. The White House needed the Attorney General’s sign-off to continue its warrantless wiretapping program.For years, there’s been a mystery about who called the hospital and informed Ashcroft’s wife, over her objections, that Card and Gonzo would be coming to see the AG. And it looks like the answer is the president himself.
From the report:
According to notes from Ashcroft’s FBI security detail, at 6:20 p.m. that evening Card called the hospital and spoke with an agent in Ashcroft’s security detail, advising him that President Bush would be calling shortly to speak with Ashcroft. Ashcroft’s wife told the agent that Ashcroft would not accept the call. Ten minutes later, the agent called Ashcroft’s Chief of Staff David Ayres at DOJ to request that Ayres speak with Card about the President’s intention to call Ashcroft. The agent conveyed to Ayres Mrs. Ashcroft’s desire that no calls be made to Ashcroft for another day or two. However, at 6:45 p.m., Card and the President called the hospital and, according to the agent’s notes, “insisted on speaking [with Attorney General Ashcroft].” According to the agent’s notes, Mrs. Ashcroft took the call from Card and the President and was informed that Gonzales and Card were coming to the hospital to see Ashcroft regarding a matter involving national security. (our itals)
In other words, President Bush, apparently knowing that Ashcroft’s wife did not want him seeing visitors or even speaking on the phone, nonetheless informed her that his staff would be coming to the hospital to get the sign-off they needed.
The passage essentially confirms a report from last year by Murray Waas in The Atlantic that Gonzo had told investigators that it was indeed President Bush who directed him to Ashcroft’s bedside. And the president’s call itself was first reported by Barton Gellman in his 2008 book Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.
Of course, in Ashcroft’s finest moment, Card and Gonzales were unsuccessful. But they would soon find ways to get around the problem.