With a number of senators now charging Attorney General Gonzales with having perjured himself in his recent appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and calls for his prosecution proliferating, FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared on the House side yesterday and was asked to shed some light on the question. You were there when Gonzales and Card approached Attorney General Ashcroft in his hospital bed, so tell us whose account of this event is accurate: Comey’s or the Gonzales account from Tuesday?
Mr. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee that the Bush administration’s secret eavesdropping program was the main topic at an encounter in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004, contrary to what Mr. Gonzales told a Senate panel on Tuesday. At the time, Mr. Gonzales was the White House counsel, and Mr. Ashcroft was recovering from gall bladder surgery. That March night, Mr. Gonzales went to the hospital room with Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff.
In his testimony before the Senate panel on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales said the subject in the hospital room was “intelligence activities” under debate in the administration, but not the secret eavesdropping program. But Mr. Mueller contradicted that version of events today, several hours after four Senate Democrats called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Gonzales perjured himself before Congress.
Mr. Mueller was testifying at an F.B.I. oversight hearing when he was questioned by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas. “Did you have an understanding that the conversation was on T.S.P.?” the Congresswoman asked, using the shorthand for terrorist surveillance program. “I had an understanding the discussion was on an N.S.A. program, yes,” Mr. Mueller replied, using the abbreviation for the National Security Agency. A moment later, he added that the discussion was on the warrantless eavesdropping program “that has been much discussed, yes.”
It looks like Gonzales has been trapped in a very clear-cut and very significant perjury. So what is Congress going to do about it?