The top deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft refused two years ago to approve important parts of the secret program that allows domestic eavesdropping without warrants, prompting two leading White House aides to try to win the needed approval from Mr. Ashcroft himself while he was hospitalized after a gall bladder operation, according to officials knowledgeable about the episode.
"The top deputy" would be James Comey, the same guy who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame leak, and who left the Justice Department last August to become the general counsel of mega-defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
But the sinister/truly comical part is the visual of Attorney General Abu Gonzo and Bush chief of staff Andy "Deck of" Card(s) standing over the hospital bed of John "Holy Crisco" Ashcroft and trying to get him to sign off on the eavesdropping.
Daily Kos had it first, and asks the right questions: did Ashcroft commit perjury, and did the President also lie to the American people when he said:
... For years, law enforcement used so-called roving wire taps to investigate organized crime. You see, what that meant is if you got a wire tap by court order-and, by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example.
'Everything we hear about'. What about the things you're not telling us, Mr. President?
And then there's this, under the header "Fawn Hall Republicans", which refers to Oliver North's comely shredding accomplice during the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal, and her testimony during the Congressional hearings that followed:
(T)here were "times when you have to go above the written law."
Just go read the whole piece, as it goes into detail about how "Big Time" Dick Cheney has reassembled a powerful executive office that had been disarmed after the abuses of Watergate.
Update: From Newsweek ...
On one day in the spring of 2004, White House chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a bedside visit to John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, who was stricken with a rare and painful pancreatic disease, to try—without success—to get him to reverse his deputy, Acting Attorney General James Comey, who was balking at the warrantless eavesdropping. Miffed that Comey, a straitlaced, by-the-book former U.S. attorney from New York, was not a "team player" on this and other issues, President George W. Bush dubbed him with a derisive nickname, "Cuomo," after Mario Cuomo, the New York governor who vacillated over running for president in the 1980s. (The White House denies this; Comey declined to comment.)
Update #2: georgia10 elaborates.