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Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
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Exclusive Book Excerpts: Cheney Stance Drove White House Crisis

POSTED: 02:30 PM ET, 09/15/2008 by The Editors

The Washington Post has been publishing exclusive excerpts from Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Bart Gellman's book detailing how the most powerful vice president in U.S. history exerted his influence over government and policy.

The Post excerpts Sunday and today tell for the first time the full details of the story behind the frenzied rush to the bedside of ill Attorney General John Ashcroft by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in March 2004.

Card and Gonzales were seeking to keep alive without changes the president's secret program allowing warrantless domestic surveillance. Several top officials in the Justice Department, including Acting Attorney General James B. Comey and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, believed the program was illegal and had to be modified.

But Cheney, who along with his counsel, David Addington, drove the president's policy on the warrantless surveillance, resisted any changes.

Sunday's excerpt revealed the growing resistance within Justice to Cheney and Addington's hardline approach. "The analysis is flawed," Comey told Addington. "No lawyer reading that could reasonably rely on it." Addington responded, "Well, I'm a lawyer and I did." Comey shot back: "No good lawyer."

Today's excerpt details the meeting with Ashcroft, who backed up Comey in the face of the pressure by Card and Gonzales. Ashcroft told them he never should have certified the program in the first place, Gellman reports.

With the crisis mounting, Comey wrote out a resignation letter that he planned to deliver if the program went ahead without addressing Justice's concerns. "I and the Department of Justice have been asked to be part of something that is fundamentally wrong," Comey wrote. "Sadly, although I believe this has been one of the institution's finest hours, we have been unable to right that wrong."

In the end, the crisis was averted when Bush agreed to change the program.

Gellman's notes for his reporting can be accessed online here for Part One and here for Part Two.

By The Editors |  September 15, 2008; 2:30 PM ET
Previous: 'Preventive Journalism' Prize Finalists, Online Journalism Winners Announced | Next: Ex-White House Aide: 'Surge' Wasn't Just About More Troops

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