What Alberto Gonzales said

The attorney general refuses to discuss allegations about his hospital room visit, but he may have revealed some truth anyway.



Tim Grieve
June 5, 2007 10:57PM (UTC)

Alberto Gonzales and other Justice Department officials held a press conference Tuesday to boast of indictments handed down Monday in an investigation into the "international gang" called La Mara Salvatrucha, or "MS-13."

The first questions from reporters: "Mr. Attorney General, last month, Jim Comey testified about a visit you and Andy Card made to John Ashcroft's hospital bed. Can you tell us your side of the story? Why were you there? And did Mr. Comey testify truthfully about it? Did he remember it correctly?"

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Gonzales' response? Exactly what you'd expect:

"Mr. Comey's testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people some time ago. And, because it's a highly classified program, I'm not going to comment on his testimony."

The follow-up: "On that subject, understanding you can't comment about the content, I assume you would disagree with Mr. Comey that your actions that day were inappropriate. Do you believe your actions that day were inappropriate? I'm not taking about any classified program."

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Gonzales' response: "You're asking me to comment on Mr. Comey's testimony. I'm not going to comment on Mr. Comey's testimony or talk about the program. Thanks."

No, Mr. Attorney General, thank you. For while Gonzales may not have meant to say anything of substance, he may have inadvertently answered an important lingering question about Comey's charges and Gonzales' veracity.

Back in 2006, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that "there has not been any serious disagreement about" Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Fast-forward to May 2007, and Comey testifies that there was a disagreement so serious that he and other top administration officials were prepared to quit over it.

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As Think Progress noted at the time, Comey's testimony (if truthful, and we're not hearing anyone in the administration deny it) suggested either that Gonzales lied when he said that there hadn't been "any serious disagreement" about the warrantless wiretapping program or that Comey was referring in his testimony to a disagreement about some other classified surveillance program.

It seems that Gonzales has just put that question to rest. In saying that Comey's testimony dealt with a "highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people some time ago," didn't Gonzales just concede that Comey's testimony dealt with the warrantless wiretapping program -- the only classified surveillance program we remember the president having "confirmed to the American people"? And if Gonzales just conceded that, albeit tacitly and inadvertently, isn't it pretty clear now that he lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he said in 2006 that there had been no "serious disagreement" about that program?


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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