Ashcroft Battled White House Over Appointment
An internal fight between former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and the White House over who would lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in early 2003 set off a quick turn of events, ultimately leading to a critical attack on the Bush administration's interrogation methods by its "compromise" pick.
President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., dismissed the five candidates put forward by Ashcroft, all Republican lawyers with impeccable credentials, sources told The Post. Instead, the White House insisted Ashcroft promote John Yoo, a onetime OLC deputy who had worked closely with Gonzales and vice presidential adviser David S. Addington to draft memos supporting detainee questioning techniques, among other things, The Post's Carrie Johnson reports.
The result was a tense standoff, finally resolved by Bush, and the compromise appointment of Jack L. Goldsmith, a Defense Department lawyer then on leave from a teaching post at the University of Chicago Law School.
Later, Goldsmith would pen his highly critical book, "The Terror Presidency," in which he writes that some of the memos written by Yoo and his colleagues from 2001 to 2003 were "deeply flawed: sloppily reasoned, overbroad, and incautious in asserting extraordinary constitutional authorities on behalf of the President." Goldsmith now teaches law at Harvard University.
Ashcroft, who left his post in 2005, is expected to address the whole episode at today's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the fifth in a series of explorations by Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) into the underpinnings of the government's legal strategy for fighting terrorism. (See Ashcroft's opening statement.)
The Post first reported in January 2005 that proposed CIA interrogation techniques were discussed at several White House meetings years before. Yoo was a principal briefer at the meetings, where interrogation methods discussed included open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and waterboarding. The attendees at one or more of these sessions included Ashcroft and Addington.
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