There has been a bit of discussion about the Comey hospital story. Why would Gonzales and Card get Ashcroft's signature to authorize their domestic spying program? Any idiot who knew about Ashcroft's gallbladder surgery wouldn't accept his signature, on March 10, as valid. Is it possible they intended to backdate the signature? Nahhh! Gonzales wouldn't do that, would he?
Yes he would.
Yesterday's document dump includes the Control Sheet for Tim Griffin's appointment. The control sheet makes it very clear:
Alberto Gonzales signed the appointment on December 18 ... but it was dated December 15.
So why would Alberto Gonzales backdate the Tim Griffin appointment from a Monday to a Friday?
Because Alberto Gonzales and Senator Pryor had a conversation on December 15 at which Pryor asked for reasons why Cummins was resigning and indicated he did not support Griffin for USA. It appears that, after that conversation, they quickly made Griffin's appointment a done deal, only later submitting the paperwork for it. And then, according to the list of documents not turned over, the White House and DOJ had a flurry of conversations:
- December 15: Notifying C. Oprison of Cummins resignation announcement (Oprison, Goodling)
- December 15: Scheduling call with C. Oprison re: Cummins resignation (Oprison, Goodling, Tracy Washington, B Meadows)
- December 15: Discussion of issues relating to Cummins resignation/replacement by Griffin (Goodling)
- December 18: Forwarding message to Sen. Pryor staff re: ways a person can become a USA (Oprison, Goodling)
- December 18: Discussion with Sen. Pryor staff re: ways a person can become a USA (B Russell)
- December 18: Request to send Arkansas press clippings to C. Oprison
- December 19: Forwarding DeMillo (AP) story: re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (From Goodling, to Sampson and Oprison)
- December 19: Discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling, Scolinos)
- December 19: Fowarding discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Oprison)
- December 19: Fowarding discussion re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling)
- December 19: Question re: response to DeMillo (AP) story re: Sen. Lincoln's response to appointment of Griffin (Goodling)
At which point, on December 19, Kyle Sampson launches into his "gumming it to death" strategy. Apparently, after having retroactively appointed Griffin so as to pretend it occurred before the Pryor conversation, Goodling, Sampson, and Oprison went into a flurry of activity to try to pull off this retroactive fuck-you to the Senator from Arkansas.
This also explains a bit about a passage in a recent Murray Waas story (though I think the dates on the story are wrong):
The next day, on December 20, Cummins formally resigned as U.S. attorney and Griffin was named as his interim replacement. Cummins said in an interview that officials at Justice sped up the timetable on his departure, going so far as to call him on a cellphone when he was on a hunting trip with his son to say he must leave on December 20.
Cummins had settled on December 20 as his resignation date much earlier in the year. But his resignation was officially December 15. It's unclear when DOJ called Cummins, but if he was hunting over the weekend, that would be either December 16 or 17. In any case, I think I can understand why they needed to contact Cummins while he was hunting--they had to put everything in order to backdate this appointment.
If Gonzales was willing to backdate Griffin's appointment, why wouldn't he backdate the authorization for Bush's domestic wiretap program?
Update: Here's a question for the lawyers and government employees in the crowd. The original appointment was sent to OLC for "numbering and handling." Is that normal procedure? Does OLC have to "number and handle" every appointment document out there? It sure seems like a menial task for the smartest lawyers in DOJ. Or did they need to do this to find some way to slip the document into the normal document control list, thereby hiding that it was post-dated? And did OLC have to do some fancy lawyering to justify the retroactive date?
Update: TP notes some funkiness with the date of Griffin's appointment too.
Although the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin to replace Mr. Cummins was first contemplated in the spring or summer of 2006, the final decision to appoint Mr. Griffin to be interim U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas was made on or about December 15,2006, after the second of the Attorney General's telephone conversations with Senator Pryor.
To this statement:
Although the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin to replace Mr. Cummins was first contemplated in the spring or summer of 2006, the final decision to appoint Mr. Griffin to be interim U.S. Attomey in the Eastern District of Arkansas was made on or about December 15,2006, after the Attorney General's telephone conversation with Senator Pryor.
In both, they keep the "on or about," which sure makes a lot of sense now that we know about the backdating. But I'm particularly interested in the substitution of, "after the Attorney General's telephone conversation with Senator Pryor" for "after the second of the Attorney General's telephone conversations with Senator Pryor." By changing the wording the document can legally mean either before or after the conversation.
A surprise late-afternoon announcement Friday that J. Timothy Griffin will become the new U. S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas drew the ire of U. S. Sen. Mark Pryor, whose spokesman said the maneuver amounts to "basically circumventing the normal process."
U. S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made the appointment, which takes effect Wednesday. The announcement caught even the current U. S. attorney, Bud Cummins, off guard as he hiked through deer woods with his son.
Shortly after being notified that the announcement was being moved up, Cummins said over a cell phone in the woods that he had been planning to announce next week
So it's not that the appointment didn't happen on December 15. Rather, it's that someone besides Attorney General made the appointment. When that press report went out, after all, Gonzales had not yet made this official.