I know it seems like there have been dozens of revelations about the current administration, each of which should have been the tipping point, the event that precipitates the ultimate downfall, but the picture that emerges from the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey -- the number two man at the Justice Department -- to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday is of the kind of skullduggery that would make Nixon blush.
Essentially, Gonzalez (when he was White House Council) and Andrew Card tried an end-around when then-A.G. John Ashcroft and the DOJ refused to reauthorize the NSA spying, first by confronting Ashcroft in the intensive care unit of the hospital where he was very ill, then by trying to pressure and/or intimidate Comey, who refused to meet with Card without the Solictor General as a witness. It gets very Hollywood very quickly. This Washington Post editorial sums up the narrative quite well, and concludes:
Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.The transcript of the session has its light moments, such as this one as Chuck Shumer finishes introducing Comey:
I especially appreciate Mr. Comey's coming to testify here without the formality of a subpoena. In order to secure Mr. Comey's presence, I would have moved for consideration of a subpoena by the committee, but I'm glad that wasn't necessary because of your cooperation.I think it's pretty clear everyone wishes it was someone of Comey's character and not Alberto Gonzales' that was in charge of the Justice department now. It's that divide between those in the administration (including, surprisingly, Ashcroft) that still held some regard for the rule of law, and the ones who don't, that's laid bare here. The sum and the details of the testimony are disturbing, shocking, chilling -- you name it. It's the cloak-and-dagger stuff that usually gets dismissed as liberal tin-hat conspiracy-mongering, except that it's there in black and white this time.
As far as I'm concerned, when the Justice Department lost Jim Comey, it lost a towering figure. And I don't say that because he stands 6'8" tall. When Jim left the department, we lost a public servant of the first order, a man of unimpeachable integrity, honestly, character and independence.
And now I'd like to administer the oath of office. Would you please rise?
I'm sorry. I wish we were administering the oath of office.