‘Wash Post’ Reviews ‘Ashcroft and the Night Visitors’

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By: E&P Staff

On the day after, The Washington Post today in print and online offers numerous takes on the bombshell Tuesday testimony of the former #2 (and for a time, #1) man in the Bush Justice Department, James Comey.

A Post editorial, meanwhile was strongly critical of current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for his role in the matter. The editorial was the most viewed article on the paper’s Web site today, with the latest news account sitting at #3.

The true-life drama, described by Comey, is sensational but it remains to be seen if it is a one-day or an all-year story.

Here are some of the various ways the Post responded, besides that news story and a transcript.
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Dana Milbank in a column titled, “Ashcroft and the Night Visitors”:

“In hair-raising testimony before a Senate committee yesterday, Jim Comey, the former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, described what might be called the Wednesday Night Massacre of March 10, 2004. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card staged a bedside ambush of Attorney General John Ashcroft while he lay in intensive care. Comey, serving as acting attorney general during Ashcroft’s incapacitation, testified about how, on a tip from Ashcroft’s wife, he intercepted the pair in Ashcroft’s hospital room.”

Editorial:

“James B. Comey, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source. . . .

“Mr. Comey’s vivid depiction, worthy of a Hollywood script, showed the lengths to which the administration and the man who is now attorney general were willing to go to pursue the surveillance program. First, they tried to coerce a man in intensive care — a man so sick he had transferred the reins of power to Mr. Comey — to grant them legal approval. Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice’s authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations — Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself — did the president back down. . . .

“The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration’s alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. . . .

“That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.”

Dan Froomkin in his online White House Watch column:

“Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s gripping testimony yesterday about his high-speed race to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bedside — and the ensuing standoff with senior White House aides over the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program — may turn out to be the political-scandal equivalent of the tune nobody can get out of their heads.

“It might not stack up as the most momentous of the accusations against the Bush White House. But it features a compelling narrative, an irreproachable witness and a serious charge of wrongdoing. At heart, Comey’s tale is about a White House that refused to stand down even when its own Justice Department determined that what it was doing was illegal….I dare you to tell me this story is going away anytime soon.”

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