Is Gonzales’ Perjury a Red Herring to Keep Focus off Bush’s Impeachable FISA Violations?
Posted by Jon Ponder | Jul. 26, 2007, 8:12 am
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales seemed to be inexplicably upbeat even while he endured hours of grilling and harsh criticism by senators from both parties.
One explanation for Gonzales’ blithe nonchalance while lying to the Senate is that his silence has been bought — as Scooter Libby’s was — with the foreknowledge that Bush will pardon him before he spends a minute in jail.
In the wake of his bizarre performance, both the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy and his Republican counterpart, Arlen Spector, have warned Gonzales that he is very close to facing perjury charges.
Compounding their threats, documents were produced yesterday that appear to demonstrate that Gonzales lied under oath about events leading up to his extremely inappropriate late-night visit in March 2004, when was White House counsel, to the hospital room of his predecessor, John Ashcroft, who was recuperating from surgery.
Others in the room have testified that Gonzales, along with Bush’s then-chief of staff Andrew Card, visited Ashcroft, who was heavily sedated, to try to convince him to countermand objections to the president’s illegal wiretapping scheme.
In earlier testimony, Gonzales claimed that no one in the administration objected to the illegal scheme. In fact, according to subsequent testimony, several top officials, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, threatened to resign if the scheme continued.
On Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly denied that the purpose of his visit to Ashcroft in his hospital bed was the illegal program, claiming instead that it was another, as yet undisclosed secret program. The newly released documents, as well as statements by people present at a meeting prior to the trip to the hospital, appear to prove that Gonzales is lying.
Alberto Gonzales is following a course remarkably similar to that of John Mitchell, the only previous attorney general to face criminal charges. Like Gonzales, as Pres. Nixon’s A.G., Mitchell okayed the wiretapping of U.S. citizens (most of whom were political enemies of the president) and used security issues as an excuse to restrict civil liberties.
In 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
The fact that Gonzales is unconcerned about facing a fate similar to Mitchell’s may itself be circumstantial evidence of a continuing conspiracy to obstruct justice at the White House.
Earlier this year, Gonzales was said to have spent two weeks rehearsing for the appearance before the Senate in which he used phrases like “I don’t recall” dozens of times. Even on Tuesday, his responses were obviously coached and practiced so as to obfuscate … something. He obviously has something to hide. What is it?
At the heart of his matter is a real criminal enterprise to which Pres. Bush has publicly, even proudly, confessed, and for which constitutional scholars say there are solid grounds for impeachment.
In 2005, the New York Times reported that there had been an ongoing scheme by the Bush administration to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). After the leak to the New York Times, the president admitted he had repeatedly violated FISA by eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, which is illegal. To give the program an air of legitimacy, the White House political office spun it as the “terrorist surveillance program” (TSP).
Elizabeth Holzman, who served in the Congress during Watergate, writing in the journal Foreign Policy, said that the president’s repeated violations of FISA are actionable:
The strongest legal argument for impeachment—because it is based on the Watergate precedent—arises out of the fact that President Bush refused for years to seek court approval required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for a special wiretapping program in the United States. After revelations that President Nixon illegally wiretapped journalists and White House staffers, Congress enacted FISA to prevent future such abuses, making them a federal crime. Illegal wiretapping was one of the grounds for articles of impeachment against Nixon.
Perhaps the reason Gonzales is so relaxed about perjuring himself is that he is doing what he has been instructed to do: Keep the attention of Congress and the American public on himself as a dodge to to deflect interest away from Pres. Bush’s real impeachable offenses — his repeated violations of the surveillance act.
If so, there is a strong likelihood that Gonzales’ silence has been bought — as Scooter Libby’s was — with the foreknowledge that Bush will pardon him before he spends a minute in jail.