July 26th, 2007
03:50 PM ET
3 years ago

FBI director contradicts Gonzales on Ashcroft hospital room

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a House panel Thursday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress on Thursday that the confrontation in 2004 between then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in Ashcroft's hospital room was over the controversial warrantless surveillance program - in apparent contradiction of Gonzales' Senate testimony on Tuesday .

Mueller said he spoke with Ashcroft shortly after Gonzales left the hospital, and he was told the meeting dealt with "an NSA (National Security Agency) program that has been much discussed, yes."

Mueller made the comment as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Gonzales insisted he had visited the ailing Ashcroft in the hospital to discuss "other intelligence activities," not the surveillance program.

Mueller also testified Thursday that he had serious reservations about the warrantless surveillance program at the time of the dramatic internal administration showdown and threats of top-level resignations.

Mueller did not confirm he had threatened to resign, but he twice said he supports the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who had testified that Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card tried to pressure Ashcroft to reauthorize a surveillance program against terror suspects.

Mueller for the first time publicly confirmed he did dispatch - as Comey had testified - an FBI security detail to the hospital room to ensure that Comey was not removed from the room when Gonzales was there.

–CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    What I want to hear is what ASHCROFT has to say... since HE was person talking to Gonzales and Comes.

    Mr Ashcroft?

    July 26, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    Wow. I'm stunned, yet still I have little hope of any justice happening here. The best that will happen is that Gonzales will be forced to step down, but the higher-ups will still remain untouched.
    I'm sure the extreme Righties out there will still claim this is more conspiracy tactics by "looney lefties" and the "Communist/Clinton News Network".
    I bet the vast majority of people who call Democrats "socialists" or "communists" don't even understand the terms they're throwing out. These folks remind me of Archie Bunker.

    July 26, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Jay, Columbus, Ohio

    Nail meet Coffin.

    July 26, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. David, Gilbert Arizona

    I watched the directors testimony and I have to say it was refreshingly open and candid. He made statements that, on the surface, appear to contradict Gonzales. He also revealed that he took notes of the hospital meeting, although those notes have not been released.

    The hole only gets deeper for Alberto.

    July 26, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Charlie, Hot Springs, AR

    I believe that if we keep peeling more and more protective layers away from the the
    current top level administration, eventually we will get to the top cronies resulting in
    impeachments. My only worry is that the democrats will fail to see it through. The biggest
    flaw the democrats have, in my opinion, is that they are trying to appease everyone, on
    both sides of the issues, and wind up dropping the ball, again.

    Thank you. A democrat.

    July 26, 2007 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. john from America

    Jon from Sacramento (Loyal Bush Defender) it looks like you don't care how many people step forward to prove that Gonzales is a perjurer and compulsive lier – you will hold out for any loyal bushie to come to gonzo's aid!

    July 26, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. bprosserme

    That means little if anything at all. My God Democrats, don't you get it? America is disgusted beyond belief at the Democrats cronic non-stop bashing of everyone and everything. They no longer know why they are in D.C.

    July 26, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    John from America,

    Welcome to America – you must be new here. One of the great laws of this land is that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    What's happening in this house panel is called "gathering information and testimony".

    When person A (Mr Gonzales) says he had a conversation with person B (Mr Ashcroft) yet person C (Comey) disagrees – you should gather testimony from Person A and Person B. Person D (Muellers) is providing "hearsay" testimony – since he was not present at the meeting.

    Granted I understand you are ready to convict and lock-up Mr Gonzales without a full hearing or due process... but please do not disparage those of us who prefer to give all Americans (even the ones you don't like) fair treatment.

    July 26, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  9. John, Council Bluffs, IA

    It's truly appalling that the U.S. Atty General gives sworn testimony so glibly, like a teenager trying to wriggle out of guilt with cute word games. It's as though he sees truth as a game. The Director of the FBI and the (then) Deputy Atty General/Acting Atty General have given credible testimony about his and Mr. Card's actions at the ICU recovery bad of Mr. Ashcroft, and he seeks only to obfuscate and "white-wash" the truth with convenient lies, and he has no problem with it. Sets an astonishing example.

    July 26, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. bprosserme

    Archie Bunker, John, that's a good one. I needed a good laugh today, thank you.

    I think Archie had a lot of good things to offer though. Don't you agree? LOL LOL

    July 26, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  11. Mike, HI

    My God Democrats, don’t you get it? America is disgusted beyond belief at the Democrats cronic non-stop bashing of everyone and everything.

    And you know this, how? I don't know why anyone would be disgusted with oversight. At times, they may appear a little overzealous, but I think that's justified given how secretive the administration is.

    And Jon, though you are correct and make valid points, some of your extreme exaggerations can hurt the argument. Accusing John of wanting to convict and jail Gonzales without a hearing is unfair and rather petty. It can be fun to write, I'm sure, but it generally only hurts the discussion.

    I am definitely interested in what Ashcroft has to say, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one skeptical of his testimony if he agrees with Gonzales. Not that it would prove any wrongdoing if he does back up Gonzales, but it's clear these days that the administration is really big on political loyalty in its ranks.

    July 26, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  12. John from America

    Jon from Sacramento – Let's see it's OK for the Bushies to conduct illegal wiretaps, to let a convicted felon out of jail (Libby), and now that several Senators and the FBI director have different versions of the truth than Gonzalas (and he keeps changing his version under oath) and since he's the top cop who has the power to stop any attempt to investigate his own wrongdoings – hmmmmmmmmm, good system! Stop trying to stick up for the crooks because they happen to be GOP "good old boys" What happened to the rule of law – only when it the other guy eh! I'll bet you were one of those GOP guys crying for Bill Clinton's scalp for his grand LIE! If everyone in this administration were booted for lying, DC would be a very lonely place right now!

    July 26, 2007 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  13. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Hi Mike ~ Hawaii,

    Perhaps my jab "convict and lock-up" was a wee-bit strong. I guess when someone posts "you don’t care how many people step forward to prove that Gonzales is a perjurer and compulsive lier.." it suggests to me this person has concluded Gonzales has broken the law.

    Do I think the AG is getting himself into some trouble waters? Sure looks that way. But I think cooler heads should wait for all the testimony before drawing hard conclusions.

    Sadly – much of our discourse in the general public seems to mirror the partisan bickering seen in Washington. And it's not good when we've come to the place of where everything done and said is suspect and filtered by party affiliation.

    July 26, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  14. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    John from America,

    "it’s OK for the Bushies to conduct illegal wiretaps"

    No, I am not for illegal wiretaps. I am for monitoring calls made by known and suspected terrorists. The disagreement was whether the wiretaps needed prior approval or post approval by a Federal Judge.

    "[Ok to let] a convicted felon out of jail (Libby)"

    I'm ambivalent about pardons. Every administration has used them – many for the benefit of their own party. I recognize that it goes both ways. Remove can solve the problem. Although removing certain tools can ironically come back to hurt the party initially offended. (ie Democrats furious with Ken Star later voted to extinguish the Special Prosecuter's Office...think they'd like to have one now?)

    "now that several Senators and the FBI director have different versions of the truth than Gonzalas (and he keeps changing his version under oath) and since he’s the top cop who has the power to stop any attempt to investigate his own wrongdoings – hmmmmmmmmm, good system"

    I thought Janet Reno was a horrendous AG that protected President Clinton. Being fair – if proven Gonzales lied he would fall into that same camp.

    "What happened to the rule of law – only when it the other guy eh! I’ll bet you were one of those GOP guys crying for Bill Clinton’s scalp for his grand LIE!"

    Yes I was wanting Clinton impeached – for lying to a Grand Jury and attempted to Obstruct Justice. If President Bush were forced to testify and he lies to a grand jury and attempts to obstruct justice – then he too should be impeached. But we are WORLDS away from having the evidence to impeach this President. The most people have is insinuation and hatred for the guy. Let's be honest.

    "If everyone in this administration were booted for lying, DC would be a very lonely place right now"

    I completely agree.

    July 26, 2007 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  15. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    bprosserme .. "My God Democrats, don’t you get it? America is disgusted"

    You 28-percenters are hardly "America".

    "they no longer know why they are in D.C."

    They were put in D.C. to stop the scandals, abuses of power, and failed war strategy – all under Repubs watch.

    You remember don't you? All the things that got you guys fleeced on Nov 7th?

    Thanks for giving me another post of yours to respond to!

    July 26, 2007 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  16. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    I agree with Jon from Sacramento .. Let's see what Ashcroft has to say.

    Hopefully plans to do so are currently in the works.

    July 26, 2007 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  17. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Thus far, Gonzales has (at the very least) lied about: 1) him “not [being] involved in any discussions about what was going on” at a March 13, 2007 press conference – refuted by testimony and emails; 2) his February 6, 2006 statement about there “not been any serious disagreement about the [no-warrant surveillance program]." – contradicted by his own 07/24/07 testimony that the purpose of a March 10, 2004 meeting (between White House officials and congressional leaders - referred to as the "Gang of Eight") was to inform lawmakers that Comey would not approve "a very important intelligence activity."; 3) his assertion during April 19, 2007 testimony, regarding his role in the firings of the attorneys, that "I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation." – contradicted by Monica Goodling, who testified that, she had an "uncomfortable" conversation while she worked for him "where he outlined his recollection of what happened" and asked her for her reaction; and 4) him saying (during his testimony on 07/24/07) he had visited the ailing Ashcroft in the hospital to discuss "other intelligence activities," not the surveillance program – which was contradicted by the testimony of both Comey and Mueller.

    Gonzales needs to go. Used car salesman lie better than this guy! But at least they don't do it under oath at the expense of our entire judicial system's credibility.

    July 26, 2007 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  18. John from America

    Just one more question Jon and you other GOP folks – who do you believe the FBI Director or "I can't remember" Alberto? The guy with the sworn testimony under oath keeps having different recollections of facts each time he testifies.

    July 26, 2007 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. John from America

    Jon – Oh Jon where are you with the truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 26, 2007 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. AnaHadWolves, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Gonzalez, Cheney, Bush, Card...the list seems endless...all seem to care little, or not at all, for the legalities or niceties of the US Government. These people are even MORE dangerous than Al-Qaeda because they are already in the US and throughout the government.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the Bush Maladministration suddenly suspended the 2008 elections, alleging some "terrorist plot" was imminent. Mr. Bush has already shown that he and his cabal of clowns are willing to do whatever they wish to subvert the will of the majority.

    As political pundit Elmer Fudd so eloquently once observed; "Be afwaid. Be vewwy afwaid!"

    July 27, 2007 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  21. Melinda, Kemp, Texas

    Can you believe the response from Tony Snow, White House correspondent? The FBI Director (Mueller) and Gonzales were talking about "two different NSA programs." In other words, I guess the FBI Director lied according to the White House when he said that they were talking about a much discussed NSA program. GET A GRIP, FOLKS, NOT ALL AMERICANS ARE AS DUMB AS YOU WOULD LIKE US TO BE.

    July 27, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  22. Anonymous

    "You 28-percenters are hardly “America”."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/us/24poll.html

    Six in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing in general. When asked specifically about their opinions of how the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are handling the war, disapproval ratings are similar — 65 percent disapprove of the Republicans’ handling of Iraq and 59 percent disapprove of the Democrats’.

    Hmm seems hardly like 28 percent...

    July 27, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  23. KD, Dallas, TX

    I am optimistic and yet skeptical that this will make any difference at all. This administration seems too "above the law" to have anything stick to them. It's like watching John Gotti all over again. I find it appalling that people think it's okay to lie and not have it addressed. I was upset at the whole Clinton thing being taken so seriously. Yes, extramarital affairs are not morally sound. It upsets me that those who were out to get him were in the midst of their own extramarital affairs. Clinton's lies had more affect on his personal life. This administration's lies have a huge affect on our COUNTRY as a whole. More and more legislation has been passed to give more power higher up and take more freedom away from others. Why would anyone, Republican or Democratic, want that to happen. If AG fired those judges to help strengthen the Republican party, as he is accused of doing, then we all need to take note of what's going on. It affects all of us and the freedom's that our soldiers have fought for through our country's history.

    July 27, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  24. Melinda, Kemp, Texas

    Well stated, K.D. I couldn't have said it better, myself. You go!!

    July 27, 2007 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  25. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Anonymous ...

    "Six in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing in general. When asked specifically about their opinions of how the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are handling the war, disapproval ratings are similar — 65 percent disapprove of the Republicans’ handling of Iraq and 59 percent disapprove of the Democrats’."

    Sorry .. perhaps I should have said 30 or 32 percenters? I'll bet I could get an even HIGHER number if I used a FOX NEWS poll eh?

    Either way, perhaps you should take a course in poll reading.

    My comment was directed to bprosserme, who is a blatant Bush supporter and republican partisan hack. How may people support Bush now? Around 28 percent (maybe only slightly higher since his poll numbers keep dropping)?

    Now how many Bush-supporting, partisan hacks also support what Dubya and Gonzales is doing to the judicial system? Probably even less than that. Since even some republican Bush supporters have finally seen the light and don't like Gonzo much after his repeated lies under oath.

    So tell me ... do you have THAT number handy? No, you give me a number about "handling of Iraq".

    But let's keep going shall we? If 65 percent disapprove of the Republicans’ handling of Iraq and 59 percent disapprove of the Democrats’, that would mean that (only) 35 PERCENT APPROVE OF REPUBLICANS and a higher – 41 percent – approve of Dems.

    So that 35 percent you quote is all of how many points off of my original 28? Or my adjusted 32?

    3 TO 7 PERCENT?

    So you're bragging about a 32 to 35 percent approval rating for your guys? Which is still LESS than that of Dems?

    And again, this is concerning the handling of the war or congress "in general" – not specifically whether Gonzo is lying under oath, which is the topic of this thread.

    Would it make you feel better if I reposted my original post using 32 or 35 percent instead?

    Tell me, what victory do you actually claim here?

    No wonder you didn't want to use your real name!

    July 27, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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