[JURIST] Personal notes [PDF text] by FBI Director Robert Mueller released Thursday reveal that former US Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile] was "feeble, barely articulate, [and] clearly stressed" when current Attorney General and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales confronted him in his hospital room in March 2004 to obtain reauthorization of the warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. The notes also disclose that Gonzales "barred [Ashcroft] from obtaining advice he needed on the program." Mueller turned over his personal account of the Ashcroft-Gonzales meeting to the House Judiciary Committee to aid in their investigation of the legality of the controversial Department of Justice [official websites] wiretapping program.
Mueller's notes contradict previous statements made by Gonzales [JURIST report] before the Senate Judiciary Committee testifying 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." In May, former US Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified [JURIST report] that Gonzales and Card responded to Comey's reservations about re-certifying the program by pressuring the bed-ridden Ashcroft 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. The Washington Post has more.