On Sunday, Josh Marshall pointed out that the New York Times editorial on the potential need to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that “Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.” As Marshall noted, before the editorial, Cheney’s involvement in the incident had never been established.
Today on CNN, in a preview of his interview with the Vice President tonight, Larry King said he asked Cheney about the allegation. “I asked the Vice President about that and the story that he was the one that asked him to go,” said King. “And he said he had no recollection.”
“He did not want to deal with specifics, which tells me, they’re looking at trouble,” King added. “If you don’t want to deal with specifics…I think you’re looking at trouble and you’re looking the other way if you’re denying it.” Watch it:
Gonzales’ late night trip to Ashcroft’s hospital room is central to the perjury allegations swirling around him. When Gonzales was asked during his Senate testimony last week who sent him that night, he refused to say it was President Bush, instead asserting “we were there on behalf of the president of the United States.”
That Cheney may in fact be the administration official who sent Gonzales should come as no surprise. In May 2006, the New York Times reported that in the wake of 9/11, Cheney pushed for a much more expansive version of the NSA surveillance program, but was rebuffed by NSA lawyers.
UPDATE: Here’s the transcript of King and Cheney’s exchange:
Q In that regard, The New York Times — which, as you said, is not your favorite — reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President’s intelligence-gathering program. Was it you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t recall — first of all, I haven’t seen the story. And I don’t recall that I gave instructions to that effect.
Q That would be something you would recall.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would think so. But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and had been responsible and working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the President for approval. By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing new about it.
Q So you didn’t send them to get permission.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.