TL: I'd like to ask about the situation with Attorney General John Ashcroft and going over to visit him with Andy Card [then-Bush's chief of staff] while Ashcroft was in the hospital. I believe there's been some disagreement between you and James Comey [then-deputy attorney general] about the reasons for going over there.
Gonzales: I'm not sure we said different things. All I'm going to say about it is this, and the IG [U.S. inspector general] just issued a report, and unfortunately they can only issue an unclassified version of a much, much longer classified report. Andy Card and I went to see the attorney general at the direction of the president of the United States. We were asked to go following a very important meeting with the congressional leadership where there was consensus that we continue one of the most important intelligence programs for the United States during a particularly dangerous period. And I would remind your readers that the very next morning that the Madrid bombings happened. General Ashcroft, we believed, had approved these activities for a number of years, and we wanted to ensure that General Ashcroft was aware of what happened at the congressional meeting, and of course we wanted to make sure that what we were hearing from Jim Comey was in fact his position. I'm going to get into a lot more detail about this stuff in my book. But I think it's important to understand that we went there at the direction of the president. And there wasn't anything unlawful about it. And we went there to make sure that he had certain information.
TL: Why didn't you go to Jim Comey first? Wasn't he acting attorney general at that time?
Gonzales: Well, the reason we went to General Ashcroft is because he is the one who had been approving this program and these activities for a number of years. And he had been the Senate-confirmed attorney general, and as far as the president was concerned, that's the person he wanted us to talk to. Let me make one final point. I have a great deal of respect for General Ashcroft, and neither Andy Card nor I and certainly the president would have done anything to take advantage of him.
TL: I don't think you've ever said what that program was. It's assumed it was a warrantless wiretap program.
Gonzales: It wasn't about TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program]. I'm on record as saying that. The IG has now concluded that I did not . . . intend to mislead Congress when I said that."
TL: So you're free and clear on that. But there are still some issues out there for you to deal with.
Gonzales: You know, there still is. After the U.S. Attorney firings, the IG issued a report and found no wrongdoing by me, but the IG also believed that it could not adequately investigate the role of the White House and Sen. [Pete] Domenici, [R-N.M.], in those removals, and they asked Attorney General [Michael] Mukasey to appoint a special prosecutor to look into that and see whether or not there had been any criminal wrongdoing. General Mukasey appointed Nora Dannehy. And her investigation is still ongoing. But again, I can't talk much about it because it is an ongoing investigation. But the reason she was appointed was to look to see what happened in the White House and with Sen. Domenici. But I want to emphasize that ... I sat down with the IG for several hours ... and I've fully cooperated as much as I can. And there was no finding of anything improper, anything illegal, anything criminal in the removals of the U.S. Attorneys on my part.
TL: Let's talk more about that. That started around 2007, and people started saying, "Wow. The president wants to fire his own U.S. Attorneys." I don't think we'd seen a lot of that before.
Gonzales: Let's talk a little bit about that. Of course, President Clinton fired them all, all 93 when he became president. People say, "Well, that was different." Well, why was that different? Let me just say that some people say it was wrong to fire them because it might interrupt ongoing important cases. Well, if you fire all 93 U.S. Attorneys at the same time, why isn't there the same concern that you're going to interrupt ongoing very important cases?