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There has been a bit of discussion about the Comey hospital story. Why would Gonzales and Card get Ashcroft's signature to authorize their domestic spying program? Any idiot who knew about Ashcroft's gallbladder surgery wouldn't accept his signature, on March 10, as valid. Is it possible they intended to backdate the signature? Nahhh! Gonzales wouldn't do that, would he?

Yes he would.

Yesterday's document dump includes the Control Sheet for Tim Griffin's appointment. The control sheet makes it very clear: Alberto Gonzales signed the appointment on December 18 ... but it was dated December 15.

So why would Alberto Gonzales backdate the Tim Griffin appointment from a Monday to a Friday?

Because Alberto Gonzales and Senator Pryor had a conversation on December 15 at which Pryor asked for reasons why Cummins was resigning and indicated he did not support Griffin for USA. It appears that, after that conversation, they quickly made Griffin's appointment a done deal, only later submitting the paperwork for it. By backdating the appointment, they got Griffin appointed without making it look like they were using the PATRIOT provision specifically to get around the Senate. Which, of course, they were.

While it's not clear that this is illegal (unless Gonzales later lied about when he appointed Griffin), there seems to be some shadiness going on they're still trying to hide. Note that, according to the list of documents not turned over, the White House and DOJ had a flurry of conversations:

  • December 15: Notifying C. Oprison of Cummins resignation announcement (Oprison, Goodling)
  • December 15: Scheduling call with C. Oprison re: Cummins resignation (Oprison, Goodling, Tracy Washington, B Meadows)
  • December 15: Discussion of issues relating to Cummins resignation/replacement by Griffin (Goodling)
  • December 18: Forwarding message to Sen. Pryor staff re: ways a person can become a USA (Oprison, Goodling)
  • December 18: Discussion with Sen. Pryor staff re: ways a person can become a USA (B Russell)
  • December 18: Request to send Arkansas press clippings to C. Oprison
  • December 19: Forwarding DeMillo (AP) story: re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (From Goodling, to Sampson and Oprison)
  • December 19: Discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling, Scolinos)
  • December 19: Fowarding discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Oprison)
  • December 19: Fowarding discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling)
  • December 19: Question re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling)

At which point, on December 19, Kyle Sampson launches into his "gumming it to death" strategy. Apparently, after having retroactively appointed Griffin so as to pretend it occurred before the Pryor conversation, Goodling, Sampson, and Oprison went into a flurry of activity to try to pull off this retroactive fuck-you to the Senator from Arkansas.

This also explains a bit about a passage in a recent Murray Waas story (though I think the dates on the story are wrong):

The next day, on December 20, Cummins formally resigned as U.S. attorney and Griffin was named as his interim replacement. Cummins said in an interview that officials at Justice sped up the timetable on his departure, going so far as to call him on a cellphone when he was on a hunting trip with his son to say he must leave on December 20.

Cummins had settled on December 20 as his resignation date much earlier in the year. But his resignation was officially December 15. It's unclear when DOJ called Cummins, but if he was hunting over the weekend, that would be either December 16 or 17. In any case, I think I can understand why they needed to contact Cummins while he was hunting--they had to put everything in order to backdate this appointment.

If Gonzales was willing to backdate Griffin's appointment, why wouldn't he backdate the authorization for Bush's domestic wiretap program?

Update: ThinkProgress notes some funkiness with the date of Griffin's appointment, too.

Update: Further explanation per zashvil.

Update: Carolita points out that the appointment was made public immediately, on December 15. So it's not a matter of backdating to get around Pryor, per se--someone had already made the decision on December 15 to appoint Griffin early.

But that someone wasn't Attorney General Gonzales. Because he didn't sign the official paperwork until 3 days later.

Originally posted to emptywheel on Tue May 22, 2007 at 08:17 AM PDT.

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