Matt Corley

Conservatives Register Tea Party as Official Third Party In Florida

After hard-line conservatives and tea party activists forced moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava to drop out of the race in New York's 23rd congressional district, they announced that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist would likely be their next target in the GOP civil war. Politico's Ben Smith reports that some Florida Republicans recently registered an official "Tea Party" to challenge both Republicans and Democrats:

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Mike Huckabee to Headline Bizarre Conference on Electromagnetic Pulse Attacks

 In May, the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss noted that, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — citing a fictional novel — told the 2009 American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference that the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack against the United States was why he was in “favor” of “taking out Iranian and North Korean missiles on their sites.” The next month, the New Republic’s Michael Crowley reported that the “scientifically valid,” but “not strategically realistic” scenario was being used by “a cadre of conservative hawks” to argue for “familiar hobbyhorses” like missile defense and preemptive military strikes. Now, Dave Weigel reports that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is set to headline an upcoming conference on the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack against the United States, titled “EMPACT America”:

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GOP Rep Fans Birther Flames

At a town hall in North Carolina yesterday, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) told a constituent that he did not know if President Obama was a United States citizen. “I haven’t seen evidence one way or the other,” said McHenry, adding that the issue is being addressed “in the courts.” In a statement today, McHenry walked back from the “birther” ledge:

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Another GOP Senator Pays Lip Service to The Birthers

Recently, the birther movement has gained greater notoriety, with CNN's Lou Dobbs promoting the discredited myth and right-wing activists confronting members of Congress. Though the conspiracy theory has been thoroughly-debunked, some Republicans continue to feed "the wacko wing" of the party. For instance, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) recently told Politico that he thinks the birthers "have a point":

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Gay Sailor Found Dead on Military Base in a Suspected Homicide

Yesterday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the body of openly gay Seaman August Provost was discovered in a guard shack at Camp Pendelton. A “person of interest” in connection to the suspected homicide is now being held in the Navy brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. According to Provost’s sister, he had recently complained to his family that “someone was harassing and bothering him.” According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Provost likely didn’t report the harassment because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

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Will the Right Succeed in Butchering the American Clean Energy and Security Act?

Since Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), conservatives have grown increasingly hysterical in their opposition to clean energy and green jobs. Rep. "Smokey" Joe Barton (R-TX) -- a prominent global warming denier and top recipient of dirty coal funding -- renamed the bill. "They like to call it ACES but I call it C.R.A.P. -- continue ruining America's prosperity," he snickered. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) declared that a cap-and-trade system like the one proposed by Waxman and Markey "promises to cap our incomes, our livelihoods, and our standard of living" and will therefore "hurt American agriculture." Though Republicans have long falsely claimed that a cap-and-trade program will cost every American family $3,000, a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found "that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion -- or about $175 per household." This amounts to 48 cents per day -- a little more than the cost of a postage stamp. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and former Secretary of State Richard Armitage have argued recently that climate change is also "the biggest long term threat" to America's national security. Unwilling to wait any longer for much-needed action, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Monday that she plans to bring ACES for a House vote on Friday. Center for American Progress (CAP) CEO John Podesta acknowledged that ACES is "imperfect in its means" but ultimately "deserves the support of progressives." Though the bill may not be everything environmentalists and progressives want, Podesta, alluding to the Rolling Stones's Mick Jagger, said, "They must try this time to pass it through the House so that we can ultimately get what we need: a clean energy law that creates jobs, reduces oil use, and cuts global warming pollution."

A POSTAGE STAMP A DAY:
For months, congressional Republicans have claimed that addressing climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy would cost every American household thousands of dollars. As the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson argued in March, the claim "is a deliberate lie." "Conservatives that cite horrendous dollar figures are engaging in statistical demagoguery in an attempt to scare enough representatives to defeat the American Clean Energy and Security Act," wrote CAP Director of Climate Strategy Daniel J. Weiss. The latest CBO analysis should end this once and for all. Indeed, the CBO found that, for "households in the lowest income quintile would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020." As Weiss points out, the analysis did not even include other aspects of the bill, like energy efficiency promotion, that would further mitigate costs. In fact, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy "estimates that the efficiency provisions alone could save businesses and consumers $22 billion annually by 2020. The savings would be $170 per household in 2020 -- roughly equal to CBO's cost per household estimate for ACES in 2020," Weiss writes. 
 
1.7 MILLION NEW JOBS: The day before the CBO's new analysis was released, two complementary reports -- prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (PERI), CAP, Green For All, and the Natural Resources Defense Council -- determined that addressing climate change would create millions of new jobs. The PERI/CAP report found that a $150 billion annual investment in clean energy over 10 years -- an investment supported by ACES and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- could create a net increase of 1.7 million American jobs. The second study found that "clean-energy investments create more job opportunities than spending on fossil fuels, across all levels of skill and education. The largest benefits will accrue to workers with relatively low educational credentials." Investing in clean, renewable energy creates up to four times as many jobs as an equivalent investment in oil and natural gas. Most of these green jobs will be created by retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and by building new clean-energy projects, like wind farms. "In other words, investing in clean energy means more work for machinists, truck drivers, builders, roofers, insulators, electricians, engineers, and dispatchers." Indeed, the addition of 1.7 million jobs this year would have translated into a full point drop in national unemployment, from 9.4 to 8.4 percent.

THE RIGHT WING RAMPS UP: As Congress inches closer to ushering in a clean energy economy that creates jobs, enhances national security and protects our planet, the far right is ramping up efforts to block the necessary legislation. The oil industry has spent $44.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2009 alone, and last year spent 73 percent more on lobbying than it did the year before. In fact, last week a Republican group circulated a document attacking ACES as an economic burden. The Powerpoint document turned out to be drawn almost verbatim from documents by the coal lobby and Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company. And conservatives are also using new web and TV ads to fearmonger. Yesterday, Newt Gingrich's group American Solutions for Winning the Future released a grainy, black-and-white ad comparing the national economy to the infamous wobbling Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The bridge collapses as the narrator warns about the effects of a "national energy tax." "We'll lose more jobs, pay more for gas and electricity -- pushing our economy to its breaking point," the narrator intones. An RNC ad declares that cap-and-trade legislation will make "power unaffordable for all of us." These are intellectually dishonest arguments. "The point is that we need to be clear about who are the realists and who are the fantasists here," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote. "The realists are actually the climate activists, who understand that if you give people in a market economy the right incentives they will make big changes in their energy use and environmental impact. The fantasists are the burn-baby-burn crowd who hate the idea of using government for good, and therefore insist that doing the right thing is economically impossible."

Pentagon Allows Media to Cover Returning War Dead for First Time in 18 Years

At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware last night, the Pentagon granted the news media access to the arrival of a fallen soldier from overseas for the first time in 18 years. In February, the Obama administration lifted the ban on news coverage of returning war dead, which had been in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Following the new policy, the media were allowed to cover the return after the military received consent from family members of the soldier. Below is the return of 30-year old Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on April 4:

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John McCain Gets in a Twitter Fight

When he was running for President, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) freely admitted that he was computer “illiterate” and that he relied on his aides to use a BlackBerry. But McCain recently increased his use of technology, using Twitter to mock what he thinks are the “the TOP TEN PORKIEST PROJECTS in the Omnibus Spending bill.”

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Why Are GOP Leaders Taking Stimulus Cues from Michelle Malkin?

In early January, when President Obama first proposed his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin balked at the proposal’s name, writing that it should be called “The Generational Theft Act of 2009.” Malkin has been pushing her attempted re-branding ever since, repeating it over and over and over again.

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Are Republicans Actually Attacking Rush Limbaugh?

In a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties last week, President Obama told the GOP members that "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." As expected, Limbaugh responded to the presidential mention of his name with his usual bluster, stating, "I think Obama wants me to fail."

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2008 Was Not a Good Year for Lobbyists

2008 was not a good financial year for some of the top lobbying firms in Washington.

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Many Predict that Lieberman Will Keep His Chairmanship

Roll Call reports that when Senate Democrats meet today to discuss Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) future, the Democratic leadership is "expected to propose that he keep his gavel at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but lose his Environment and Public Works subcommittee chairmanship." The paper describes the proposal as only a "slap on the wrist" for Lieberman since Lieberman "may not lose much" if his subcommittee chairmanship is stripped:

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Record Numbers Seek Last-Minute Pardons From President Bush


As President Bush enters his final months in office, a record number of felons are seeking presidential pardons or commutations from him, causing “one of the largest backlogs in clemency applications in recent history”:

A number of high-profile felons have already sought clemency, among them Michael Milken, the junk-bond king and financier convicted of securities fraud in 1990; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the former California congressman who was convicted of tax evasion; and Edwin Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana convicted in 2000 of racketeering, according to the Justice Department.

In his presidency thus far, Bush has “taken a stingy stand on pardons,” granting fewer of them than any president in modern history. But Bush’s use of his clemency powers has not been without controversy. In 2007, Bush commuted former vice-presidential assistant Scooter Libby’s 2 1/2 years prison sentence for lying to federal prosecutors. Libby has not submitted a pardon request to Justice.

McCain Tells Insensitive Ethnic Joke During Speech

During a town hall in Scranton, PA on Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared that "there's only one ethnic joke that can be told in American politics and that's Irish jokes." McCain then preceded to tell a joke about drunk Irish twins. Watch it:


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Pentagon Refuses to Probe Halliburton- KBR Rape Case

Last month, after ABC News reported that former Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones had been gang-raped by her co-workers while working in Baghdad, multiple lawmakers -- including Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) -- pressed the Bush administration to reveal the state of the case and to explain how an earlier investigation "had not resulted in any prosecution."

The Bush administration has been anything but cooperative. Both the State and Justice departments refused to give Poe "answers on the status" of the investigation. The DoJ "refused to send a representative" to a Congressional hearing last month, and the State, Defense and Justice departments all missed Nelson's deadline for answering questions.

Now, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense has written to Nelson and other lawmakers, saying that his agency will not investigate the allegations:

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Evidence Mounts of White House Ties to New Hampshire Phone Jamming Scheme

On the morning of election day 2002, repeated hang-up calls assaulted six phone lines tied to the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Three Republican operatives, including consultant Allen Raymond, eventually ended up in jail for their involvement in the phone jamming scheme. A fourth, former RNC offical James Tobin, will begin a second trial in February.

In his new book, Raymond alleges that the scandal goes "to the top of the Republican Party" because "the Bush White House had complete control of the RNC" and there was no way such a risky tactic wouldn't have been "vetted by" Tobin's "high-ups":

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Is the CIA Lying About When It Stopped Videotaping Interrogations?

Last week, in his letter to CIA employees informing them of the destruction of videotapes featuring interrogations, CIA director Michael Hayden claimed that "videotaping stopped in 2002." Hayden said the agency "determined that its documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes."

But the videotaping may not have actually stopped in 2002. The New York Times reports today that "a lawyer representing a former prisoner," the prisoner saw cameras in interrogation rooms after 2002":

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The Real Reason Trent Lott Is Leaving Early

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

Earlier today, news broke that Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) intends "to resign his seat before the end of the year." Lott will explain his plans in two news conferences in his home state of Mississippi later today.

Though the reasons for Lott's resignation are still unknown, a "congressional official" told the AP that "there is nothing amiss with Lott's health" and that "the senator has 'other opportunities' he plans to pursue." NBC News reports that Lott's "other opportunities" involve joining the "lucrative world of lobbying Congress" before "tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law" take effect:
While the exactly reason Lott is stepping down before he finishes his term is unknown, the general speculation is that a quick departure immunizes Lott against tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law that takes effect at the end of the year. That law would require Senators to wait two-years before entering the lucrative world of lobbying Congress.
"A Lott friend" confirmed to the Politico that the new lobbying law is "a factor in the timing" of his resignation.

Lott, whose son is a lobbyist, was part of a small bloc of conservatives who voted against the ethics reform bill in August that included the two-year revolving door ban. His vote reflected his longtime position as an opponent of lobbying reform. Here are a few more examples of Lott's defense of his potential, soon-to-be job:
- In Jan. 2006, Lott praised "the practice of secretly inserting special projects into spending bills at the behest of lobbyists," calling it "an effective way for Congress to address a problem or need back home."
- In Feb. 2006, Lott derided the effort to fix lobbying loopholes after the Jack Abramoff scandal as "the usual over reaction that we see happen quite often in Washington."
- In March 2006, Lott voted against establishing a Senate Office of Public Integrity.
- In March 2006, when Congress sought to ban free meals from lobbyists, Lott defended the free meals, saying a ban would imply "that we can be had for the price of a lunch or dinner."

Why Do Republicans Hate Cancer Survivors?

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

Last month, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani began running radio ads in which he used his experience as a survivor of prostate cancer to bash government provided universal health care plans. Using misleading statistics, Giuliani claimed that if he had gotten the disease in a country with government-based health care, "chances of surviving" would have been much slimmer:
I had prostate cancer, five, six years ago. My chance of surviving prostate cancer, and thank God I was cured of it, in the United States: 82 percent. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: only 44 percent under socialized medicine.
Giuliani says he prefers a "free market" approach that uses tax incentives to encourage Americans to enroll in private health plans. But, as the Los Angeles Times reports today, Giuliani's plan would be unlikely to cover cancer survivors such as himself:
But under the plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves could not be sure of getting coverage -- especially if they were not already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek insurance as individuals.
"Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage," said economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the candidates' proposals. "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it."
Along with Giuliani, the plans of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), who also are both survivors of cancer, would likely exclude Americans such as themselves.

According to experts who spoke to the LA Times, it will take 5-10 years for insurance companies to consider providing coverage to cancer survivors. For example, a prostate cancer survivor like Giuliani "could be covered after five years of being cancer-free, at a 40% higher premium" -- five years that is, if they had a "less severe form of the disease."

Lynne Cheney Visits Country Club With Racist Reputation

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

Last Friday, around the time her husband was giving a speech in Dallas, Lynne Cheney "made a visit to the Dallas Country Club for a signing event to promote her new memoir, Blue Skies, No Fences." The club, which was founded in 1896, is a "haven for whites" and bills itself as a "traditional," "family oriented social club."

It also didn't have any African-American members until at least as recently as June 2007.

In February 2007, controversy erupted in the Dallas Mayoral race after it was reported that two of the candidates were members of the club, which at the time had no black members and was in the process of rejecting former Clinton administration USEC board member Kneeland Youngblood:
The criticism came after The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that the membership application of prominent businessman Kneeland Youngblood, who stands to become the first black member of the club, had stalled. Members who declined to be identified said the reason for the delay was his involvement with the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
The Dallas Morning News reported in June that Youngblood's application was still "held up."

Mukasey Still Refuses to Call Waterboarding Torture Or Illegal

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

In a written response to questions from Senate Democrats today, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey refused to explicitly say whether he believed waterboarding to be torture. In the four-page letter, Mukasey called the interrogation technique "over the line" and "repugnant" on "a personal basis," but added that he would need the "actual facts and circumstances" to strike a "legal opinion":
Hypotheticals are different from real life and in any legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical.
CNN's Ed Henry notes that with his "facts and circumstances" hedge, "essentially Michael Mukasey is dodging the question of whether legally waterboarding is torture." Watch Henry's report in the video to your right.

Senate Democrats have said that Mukasey's answer on the question of waterboarding and torture is crucial to their vote on his confirmation. "It's fair to say my vote would depend on him answering that question," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told reporters last week. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called it "the seminal issue."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a judge advocate general in the military, has said that it shouldn't be difficult for Mukasey to be clear on the issue:
If he does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind because I don't think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates" the Geneva Convention and other statutes.
Time reported earlier today that if Mukasey "refuses to declare waterboarding expressly illegal, he looks likely to be rejected by the Judiciary Committee."

FEMA Staffers Posed As Reporters at Their Own Press Conference

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

On Tuesday, while "wildfires raged" in California, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), held a press conference at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices that was "carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets." In the presser, Johnson said he was "very happy with FEMA's response" while praising "the good messaging" of federal and local government responders.

But if the questions lobbed at Johnson seemed a bit like softballs, that's because they were asked by FEMA employees posing as journalists. The Washington Post's Al Kamen reports:
We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.
Watch a segment of Fox News' coverage of the presser, which never mentions the FEMA stage handling to your right.

Though FEMA told Kamen that "the staff did not make up the questions," the press briefing was filled with softball questions and opportunities for Johnson to praise the FEMA's response to the disaster, contrasting it with the agency's performance during Hurricane Katrina. Kamen writes:

Fox News Calls Katie Couric a Bad Mother for Reporting In Iraq

This post, written by Matt Corley, originally appeared on Think Progress

In two separate segments yesterday, Fox News attacked CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric for reporting from the ground in Iraq, calling it "a desperate move" and asking if it was a "ratings ploy or legitimate journalism."

On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Dagen McDowell featured Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, who characterized Couric's trip as "a clear act of desperation" by a single mother whose "priorities [are] so determined by her ambition rather than her children's welfare." Crouse pointedly accused Couric of being a bad mother for going to cover Iraq:
I would say the same thing if this were a man journalist going out there, a male anchor, because when you look at the choice she's making, she's saying my ratings are more important than my children. That's the bottom line."
Later in the afternoon, The Big Story With John Gibson hosted New York Post columnist Linda Stasi, who called Couric's trip "a desperate move" to gain "some sort of credibility." "You know and I know that she doesn't have to be there for the report," said Stasi.

Gonzales Tried to Get John Ashcroft to Sign on to Wiretapping Program on His Sickbed

In March 2004, President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was temporarily suspended after then-acting Attorney General James Comey refused to sign onto an extension of the program, citing an "extensive review" by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, stating "that the program did not comply with the law." In "gripping testimony" yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey†revealed extraordinary details about the efforts made by Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card -- then-White House counsel and chief of staff, respectively -- to persuade John Ashcroft to overrule Comey, even as Ashcroft was debilitated in an intensive care unit with pancreatitis. The Washington Post calls Comey's "account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source." Indeed, Comey's revelations confirm the worst fears about Gonzales's dangerously flawed judgment, and provide further evidence of the administration's -- including the President's -- contempt for basic legal restraints.

Race to the hospital: Describing the events as "the most difficult of my professional career," Comey explained yesterday how the ordeal began on the evening of March 10, 2004, hours before the authority for the spying program was set to expire. A top aide to Ashcroft alerted Comey that Gonzales and Card had arranged a visit with†Ashcroft, who was then hospitalized with gallstone pancreatitis. Comey "ordered his driver to rush him to George Washington University Hospital with emergency lights flashing and a siren blaring, to intercept the pair." Comey said yesterday, "I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to that." He described how he "literally ran up the stairs" to Ashcroft's room, and had FBI Director Robert Mueller order the agents on Ashcroft's security detail not to evict him from the room if Gonzales and Card objected to his presence.

Ashcroft, 'barely conscious,' rejects power play: Comey "arrived first in the darkened room, in time to brief Mr. Ashcroft, who he said seemed barely conscious." Minutes later, Gonzales and Card arrived, envelope in hand, and explained that they were seeking his approval to extend authority for warrantless spying.†"Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me," Comey said yesterday. "He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact...and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, 'But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general'ˇ�?and he pointed to me." The White House effort to overrule Comey had failed. "The two men did not acknowledge me," Comey said. "They turned and walked from the room." Comey added, "I was angry. I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man. ... I thought he had conducted himself in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before, but still I thought it was improper."


White House Caves only after mass resignation threat: Shortly afterwards, a "very upset" Card called Comey "and demanded that I come to the White House immediately." Comey told Card that, after the conduct he had just witnessed, he would not meet with him without a witness present. Card apparently replied, "What conduct? We were just there to wish him well." Comey insisted on having then-solicitor general Ted Olson accompany him to the White House, but Card "would not allow Mr. Olson to enter his office." Comey was informed that White House officials (including Vice President Cheney and Cheney's then-general counsel David Addington) wanted to continue the program. The next morning, March 11, the program was reauthorized "without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality." Comey had seen enough, and wrote up his resignation letter. "I couldn't stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis. I just simply couldn't stay." Comey said yesterday that he believed both Mueller and Ashcroft were prepared to resign with him, along with all of their top aides. One day later, on March 12, facing a threat of mass resignations, the administration cracked. Bush informed Mueller that he would authorize the changes in the program sought by the Justice Department. Comey said he signed the reauthorization "two or three weeks" later. "It was unclear from his testimony what authority existed for the program while the changes were being made."

Bush and Gonzales in the spotlight: The Washington Post notes that "the bottom line" of Comey's revelations is "the administration's alarming willingness...to ignore its own lawyers." After all, the Justice Department's conclusions "are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department's supervision." The fact that Gonzales "is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all." Moreover, Bush's direct role in this affair remains to be fully explored. Last year, Newsweek reported that Bush dubbed Comey "with a derisive nickname, 'Cuomo,' after Mario Cuomo, the New York governor who vacillated over running for president in the 1980s"; Bush was "[m]iffed" that Comey, "a straitlaced, by-the-book former U.S. attorney from New York, was not a 'team player' on this and other issues." Comey noted yesterday that Ashcroft's wife "had banned all visitors and all phone calls" to the hospital, but that Card and Gonzales were permitted to visit Ashcroft after a direct call from the White House. "I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself," he said.

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