Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied Tuesday that he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card tried to exploit then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s frail condition by pressuring him to recertify President Bush’s intelligence-gathering program during a now-famous 2004 hospital visit.

Gonzales said that he and Card had been urged by congressional leaders of both parties to take steps necessary to ensure that the unidentified intelligence program survive a looming deadline for its expiration. To do that, Gonzales said, he needed Ashcroft’s permission.