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Gonzales denies pressing hospitalized Ashcroft to recertify surveillance program

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] on Tuesday denied pressuring then-Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile] to give the Department of Justice's reauthorization of the controversial warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] while Ashcroft was hospitalized. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales, who was White House Counsel at the time, said that he and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card [official profile] visited the bed-ridden Ashcroft to inform him of congressional positions on the program and would have only sought to obtain Ashcroft's authorization if he had been "fully competent to make that decision."

Former US Deputy Attorney General James Comey [official profile] in May testified [transcript, PDF] that Gonzales and Card, in response to Comey's reservations about re-certifying the program, attempted to pressure Ashcroft [JURIST report] at his hospital bed in March 2004. Comey, who was acting attorney general because of Ashcroft's hospitalization, said that Ashcroft refused to authorize the program because he was without the powers of the attorney general and referred White House officials to Comey. AP has more.

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