Just to summarize for those who missed it. The bulk of Comey's appearance was taken by Schumer, getting Comey to explain what happened on March 10, 2004. Office of Legal Counsel had told Comey there was no legal justification for parts of the NSA Domestic Spying Program. Comey briefed Ashcroft on it, and they agreed that they could not reauthorize the program in its current form. When Comey told that to Andrew Card, Card got pissed. That night, Comey got a call from his Chief of Staff, saying Mrs. Ashcroft had gotten a call at the hospital, saying Card and Gonzales were on their way over. Comey rushed to the hospital to try to prepare Ashcroft for what was about to occur. And then, in his drug induced state, Ashcroft refused to reauthorize the program, and said he wasn't AG anyway, Comey was acting AG.

The program was "reauthorized" anyway, w/o DOJ's blessing. For two weeks, according to Comey, it operated outside the rule of law (though one day after the hospital visit, Bush told Comey to "do what's right," so they started to put it in line with the law). 

That night, Comey and a number of other DOJ staffers prepared their resignation, refusing to stay after they had been overridden.

Comey and Robert Mueller met one-on-one, in succession with Bush the following day, and Bush eventually agreed to fix the program.

One point Comey made. The biggest reason why Comey and Mueller were able to get Bush to change the program was because Bush was willing to meet with them privately. The unstated message here is that, so long as Cheney, Addington, Card, and Gonzales were able to mediate between DOJ and Bush, they were able to persuade him to keep the program on its illegal footing. 

One more thing. Comey said that one of his staffers, Philben (sp), was denied a promotion because of his role in the hospital meeting.  

Sheldon Whitehouse.

SW: Where the standards should be of what is proper and what is improper for bringing political influence into DOJ. More specifically, I've been concerned by statements that came out of DOJ, Sampson "the limited category for improper reasons would include an effort to interfere with a particular case." GOnzales: In order to interfere with a particular prosecution.

[basically, he's showing they're working off a talking point. I like Whitehouse.]

SW: When I read those things, I hearken back to Obstruction of Justice. 1) Awareness of particular case. 2) Interfere with it. 3) For corrupt purpose. Such as partisan or political gain.  Do you think interfering with a particular case would be basis for opening up an investigation into obstructoin.

JC Certainly for opening an inquiry.

SW Is that the standard?

JC No, if the standard is obstruction of justice, we're setting the bar way too low.

JC You need to talk about it in two terms, Main Justice, they have to be different in terms of what political means. It is the job of DOJ to be responsive to priorities of President. It is Main Justice's job to see to it that USAs can operate where there is little or no political consideration. They've got to call balls and strikes as they see it. The job of the department is to receive the complaints and decide what to do with them without polluting the USAs. 

Schumer Isn't it the office of OLC that makes a judgment about what is legal or not? DIdn't OLC advise you that what was attempting to be done was not within the law.

JC They coudl not find a legal basis for it.

Schumer Let me conclude by thanking you. You are a profile in courage. You are what our government is about. It has to do with caring about the rule of law. What happened in that hosptial room crystalizes the rule of law–he holds it in low regard. It's hard understanding how AGAG could remain AG, how ANY President could allow him to continue. I know it wasn't easy. I know if we didn't have the power of subpoena you wouldn't be here. We thank you for being here and having the courage for speaking the truth.

The audience applauds.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.