Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, in which he details an attempt by then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized in intensive care at the time, to overrule Acting AG Comey's refusal to sign off on an eavesdropping plan, makes for fascinating, if somewhat horrifying, reading. (If you don't want to read the entire transcript, Dana Milbank's report on the hearing hits the highlights pretty well.) One passage in particular really jumped out at me:
While I was talking to Director Mueller, an agent came up to us and said that I had an urgent call in the command center, which was right next door. They had Attorney General Ashcroft in a hallway by himself and there was an empty room next door that was the command center.
And he said it was Mr. Card wanting to speak to me. I took the call. And Mr. Card was very upset and demanded that I come to the White House immediately.
I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present.
He replied, What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.
I cannot read that last sentence without hearing it in my head in the voice of Louie, the stereotypical hit man character often seen on The Simpsons. It's not hard to imagine Card following up that statement with, "This is a nice Department of Justice you got here. It would be a shame if it got... damaged." Which is not really a bad analogy. Karl Rove is the capo, Alberto Gonzales the consigliere, Card (and Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson and God knows who else) the enforcers... it's really quite repellent.