[Update 11:55 PDT : My 1st Reco'd diary after 4 years here(!). Another question I'm not hearing addressed specificially: isn't GWB ordering commission of a fraud by soliciting Ashcroft's signature, when James Comey had formally assumed the duties of AG Ashcroft? Isn't there a piece of paper somewhere saying "I, John Ashcroft, surrender my constitutional authority to James Comey while I am under sedation."
Let history record that Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News was the first journalist to ask George W. Bush the question that will end his presidency.
O'Donnell: "Sir, did you send your then chief of staff and White House counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program, and do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?"
Bush evaded the question wholesale, so O'Donnell asked it again.
O'Donnell: "Was it on your order, sir?"
Bush: "As I said, the program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress..."
Think Progress has the video and the transcript posted up.
James Comey said Bush placed that call in Tuesday's testimony, though he hedged in a lawyerly way because he didn't get the call personally.
COMEY: (John Ashcroft' chief of staff, David Ayers,) had gotten a call from Mrs. Ashcroft from the hospital. She had banned all visitors and all phone calls. So I hadn’t seen him or talked to him because he was very ill.
And Mrs. Ashcroft reported that a call had come through, and that as a result of that call Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft.
SCHUMER: Do you have any idea who that call was from?
COMEY: I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don’t know that for sure. It came from the White House. And it came through and the call was taken in the hospital.
If Mrs. Ashcroft had banned "all visitors and and phone calls," isn't it safe to presume that only one person's phone call could override Mrs. Ashcroft's very personal decision (no doubt taken in consultation with physicians) to protect her husband's recovery in intensive care? That of the President of the United States?
Ashcroft didn't serve at the pleasure of Dick Cheney. Would Dick Cheney have called Mrs. Ashcroft to say the President's counselor and the president's chief of staff were coming to the hospital to get her husband's sign-off? What weight would Dick's phone call carry with Mrs. Ashcroft?
Cheney is the only other Constitutional officer who conceivably could have "ordered" Mrs. Ashcroft to allow visitation to her husband. But it makes no sense when it's Card and Gonzales knocking on the door.
What is it that we're contemplating here? An order from the President of the United States to the wife of the Attorney General (who himself had surrendered authority to Deputy AG Comey because he was under heavy sedation after a life-threatening operation!!) to provide access against her wishes and her physicians' wishes to her critically ill husband, so that Andy Card and Abu Gonzales could obtain Ashcroft's illicit signature to extend an illegal domestic spying program.
I think we've finally pinned illegality to the president's ass. No wonder Comey stutters his way through this answer. It's like Alexander Butterfield saying Nixon had a taping system!
We need to halt the nation's business until we get an answer to this question.