Click here for the SJC Webcast here.

Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy snuck Jim Comey in to testify before SJC today (not really–it just didn't get much publicity). I'm glad they did, though, because SJC has been a lot more fun to watch than HJC.

I have no idea what SJC will ask Comey that HJC hasn't already. I'm hoping they include questions about Sampson's two emails to him in January–which Sampson refused to turn over to Congress–as well as specific details about what McNulty said to him last Fall. And just for kicks, it might be useful to confirm that Thomas DiBiagio and Kasey Warner were the two USAs Comey fired for cause, since they're blathering about being two more of the USAs fired for no cause (and besides, there's significant evidence to suggest they were selectively prosecuting Democrats, so I'd like to know the details). 

But I'm approaching this hearing more with an eye on particular Senators. These are:

Sheldon Whitehouse: Do not miss Whitehouse's turn. Whitehouse, remember, was himself a USA. He's also really cognizant of the ways that Gonzales and Rove and Goodling have restructured DOJ to facilitate its politicization–he's the guy who laid out how much more influence the WH has with today's DOJ (and he brought a nice chart so even Orrin Hatch could understand) and he also busted Gonzales for trying to bury the internal DOJ investigations in the wrong agency. He'll go last, though, so be sure to come back to the hearing after the blowhards have their chance.

DiFi: DiFi has, on a number of occasion, used hearings to blurt out information that is supposed to be secret, so it gets into the public sphere. Most specifically, she revealed that Harriet Miers was trying to get rid of Deborah Wong Yang and she asserted that seven out of eight fired USAs were investigating public corruption. Be alert for more of DiFi's sneaky revelations.

Chuck Schumer: Like DiFi, Schumer uses hearings to get information into the public record. Though he does so more strategically, IMO. It was Schumer's questions about Goodling's use of partisan tests in hiring that first revealed that aspect of this scandal (though the media seemed to ignore it completely for almost a month). Schumer asked the question, IMO, to get Sampson to answer the question on the record, just in case evidence surfaces that Sampson did know about the partisan tests. (Sampson, not surprisingly, said he did not recall any such questions.)

Tom Coburn: Normally, I wouldn't listen to Coburn at all, because he's usually trying to colonize my womb for the fatherland. But he came out strongly against Gonzales in AGAG's last appearance before SJC. He did so, mind you, in an effort to put the scandal behind the GOP. But I'm curious if that remains his sentiment.

And of course, there are two Senators I recommend you ignore completely:

Scottish Law Specter: Arlen Specter will undoubtedly make some statement about how furious he is with the politicization of DOJ. Then he will promptly say that he won't call for Gonzales' resignation. Again.

Orrin Hatch: Hatch was, IMO, an active participant in this scam. He will babble on about how this inquiry has gone on too long and we shouldn't look any further, but what he really means is that you shouldn't look far enough to recognize his role in it.  

Schumer's statement mentions the developments since AGAG's testimony: including Comey's take on the fired prosecuted, Todd Graves' claim he was fired, confirmation that Monica Goodling was using partisan tests in hiring, and McNulty's resigation. He's particularly pissed that AGAG was–already this morning–blaming McNulty for the firings (remember, Schumer and McNulty are friendly from when McNulty worked in Congress). The basic idea of Schumer's statement though is White House White House White House.

Specter's statement once again lays out the case for AGAG's resignation, then says, "it's up to Gonzales whether he stays or goes. … I'm not going to make a recommendation to him of what he should do." Don't make me exercise oversight!!! Oops! "There is no doubt the President has the authority to fire all the Attorneys General." Then he calls it a Freudian slip. But then Scottish Law Specter runs seamlessly into reasserting the importance of voter fraud prosecutions, asserting that, since voter fraud was real when Specter was a young pup, it still is pressing.

Note: since some are having trouble getting on the SJC webcast, I will liveblog this more thoroughly, with update stamps.


Hahaha. Schumer funny guy–Comey's a towering figure, even though he is 6'8". Then Schumer fucks up and says he's "administering the oath of office." Give it time, Schumer.

Thank GOD! This is already better than SJC.

CS What about the hospital visit to Ashcroft, because you refused to sign the NSA spying program.

JC Wednesday March 10 2004.

JC This was a very memorable period in my life, probably the most difficult time in my professional life. 

CS Were you present when AGAG visited Ashcroft's bedside.

CS Did the conduct trouble you greatly. 

JC I've thought about it a lot. I assumed I would have to testify about this some day. I will not reveal the content of advise I gave as a lawyer. I've gotta back up a week. In early part of 2004, reevaluation of particular classified program. It required signature by AG to its legality. I remember precise date when program needed to be renewed. A week before I had a private meeting with the AG and I laid out with him what our analysis was. Within hours he was stricken, taken ill.

CS Something was wrong with the way it was being overseen.

JC We had concerns as to our ability to certify its legality.


JC We communicated that to WH that we could not recertify program.  I was driving home, got a call from David Ayers, gotten a call from Mrs. Ascroft, from the hospital, Mr Card and Mr Gonzales were on the way to the hospital. I have some recollection that the call was from the President, I'm not sure. I called my COS to get as many of my people to the hospital immediately.

JC I was concerned that they might ask Ashcroft to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. It wasn't clear he could orient to time and place. It was you, Mrs. Ashcroft, and the AG. I tried to help him get oriented. Meuller instructed the FBI agents not to remove me under any circumstances. The three of us DOJ people were in the room, Jack Goldsmith and Patrick Phildmon (sp). We waited. It was only a matter of minutes, in walked Gonzales and Card. They stood by the bed and then AGAG began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval. AG Ashcroft stunned me and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, drawing from the hour long view we had a week ago. Then he said, "that doesn't matter bc I'm not the AG." 

CS But he expressed his reluctance to sign it.

JC Yes. The two men did not acknowledge me, they walked from the room. We had a brief exchange with AG. Then we went outside in the hallway.

CS Am I correct that it was AG that did most of the talking.

JC Yessir.

CS They made it clear that there was in this envelope that they hoped Ashcroft would sign. AG–what was his condition. What happened after Gonzales and Card left? Any contact with them in the next little while.

JC I was getting a call next door. It was Card. Card demanded that I come to the WH immediately, I told him I would not meet without a witness present. Card said, "what conduct, we just wished him well." I said, "I would not come without Solicitor General." I said I needed to go back to DOJ first. Mr. Olson immediately went to Department where we sat in conference room. About 11 that night, Mr. Olson and I went to WH together.

CS Just before you get there–you told Card you were troubled by conduct of WH. What did you tell Olson that so upset you.

JC I was angry I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man. We discussed what to do. (lists who was there) I don't want to reveal the substance.

CS They all thought what you did was the right thing?

JC I didn't ask. It was a very hard night.

CS Did you meet with Card? 

JC Mr. Card would not allow Olson to enter his office. Asked Olson to sit outside. I went in alone. We had a discussion which was much calmer than discussion on telephone. Mr. Gonzales arrived, brought Olson into room, the four of us had a discussion. It was much more civil. I had calmed down a little bit. Ted Olson I respected enormously.

CS Was there any discussion of resignations with Mr. Card?

JC Card had heard reports that there were to be large number of resignations at DOJ. 


JC Program was reauthorized without us. I prepared a letter of resignation on March 10.

CS Even in light of that you still felt so strongly that you drafted a letter of resignation.  Why did you offer your letter of resignation.

JC I couldnt' stay if the Admin was going to engage in conduct that DOJ said had no legal basis.

CS You believe that others were also prepared to resign. Was one of those Director Mueller? AAG, Robert McCallum (he's a Skull and Bones guy).

JC I'm not sure. 

CS Your COS, Ashcroft's COS?

JC Ashcroft's COS asked that I not resign until Ashcroft was well enough to resign with me.

CS It was his understanding that Ashcroft would resign as well. Anything else of significance? March 12.

JC I went to oval office as I did every mornign with Director Mueller to brief POTUS and VP, as I was leaving President asked me to meet, one on one meeting in his study, very full exchange. At end of that meeting, I urged him to meet with Mueller. After those two sessions, we at his direction to do the right thing, to do what we believed DOJ was necessary to certify as to its legality, we set out to do that.


Specter now bitching on time–how long are you going to take? [Specter is the only Republican here]

CS It was your feeling that Gonzales and Card were trying to get an ill and maybe disoriented man to get him to do something that was against the law.

CS Ashcroft backed your view. Did you ever ask whether he would have resigned?

JC No.

CS FBI Meuller backed your view over that of Gonzales as well?

JC It was never Mueller's job to make legal determinations.

CS How about Jack Goldsmith.

JC Yes, he had done a susbstantial amount of work on that decision.

CS Have you ever had the opportunity to recall these events on the record in any other forum.

JC No. I was interviewed by the FBI in connection with a leak investigation. 

CS Did you suffer any recriminations at the Department/

JC Not that I'm aware of.

CS This story is a shocking one. It makes you almost gulp. I want to say, I appreciate your fidelity to rule of law, and I also appreciate Ashcroft's rule of law. 




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