Washington is focusing on what seemed at first to be a simple visit to the hospital bed of former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Alberto Gonzales, who replaced Ashcroft as Attorney General, says he was simply paying a visit to Ashcroft who was recovering from gallbladder surgery. At the time, Ashcroft was Attorney General and Gonzales the White House counsel. Democrats say Gonzales has lied about the visit - that he wasn’t there just to pay a visit, but was attempting to get Ashcroft to change his mind and extend the controversial National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program. Ashcroft’s assistant has said that he and Ashcroft had insisted on changes before backing extension of the program.
Gonzales has testified in Congressional hearings that he didn’t discuss the program during the visit. FBI Director Robert Mueller and others have contradicted that testimony. Ashcroft is a former United States Senator and Governor from Missouri and lives near Springfield.