[JURIST] Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called for the resignation [press release] of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Wednesday, a day after hearing testimony [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] from former US Deputy Attorney General James Comey [official profile] regarding an attempt by Gonzales to persuade former Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile; JURIST news archive] to reauthorize the warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] while he was incapacitated in the hospital, critically ill with pancreatitis [JURIST report]. Although the event did not relate to the firings of nine US attorneys [JURIST news archive] for which Gonzales is currently being criticized, Hagel said that it showed Gonzales lacks the unquestionable honesty an Attorney General needs to act as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. Hagel also said that Gonzales lacks the "moral authority to lead."
Comey testified Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee that then-White House Counsel Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card [official profile], angry that Comey refused to reauthorize the program while he was temporarily acting as Attorney General, went Ashcroft's hospital room with the authorization form in hand. From his hospital bed, Ashcroft reminded the two that Comey was acting Attorney General [JURIST report] and refused to approve the program. For the next several months, the White House ran the program without Justice Department approval. AP has more.