One reason I’m posting this today: if Gonzales’ claim that he probably wrote his notes during the weekend immediately after the Hospital confrontation is correct, it suggests he didn’t take his notes until after Bush learned Comey and Mueller might resign. Also, he wrote his notes of the Gang of Eight meeting after Mueller had already first saved his notes on the confrontation.
This timeline is a combination of this timeline of Robert Mueller’s notes (which is, IMVHO, one of my better timelines, so click through and read it for more analysis), this timeline of the OLC opinions pertaining to the program from the time period, details from Comey’s testimony before SJC, as well as other known events. I will add details from Barton Gellman’s book in the next week.
October 3, 2003: Jack Goldsmith confirmed as head of OLC.
Mid-November 2003: Goldsmith writes draft memo for Ashcroft: Review of Legality of the [NSA] Program
December 11, 2003: Comey confirmed Deputy AG.
Monday, March 1, 2004: Mueller meets with Comey in his office.
Thursday, March 3 or 4: Comey and Ashcroft decide not to reauthorize the warrantless wiretap program.
Thursday, March 4: Ashcroft hospitalized with pancreatitis. Comey becomes Acting AG.
Tuesday, March 9
12:00PM: Meeting at Card’s office, VP, CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, NSA Director Michael Hayden, Robert Mueller, Alberto Gonzales and others present. (Note, Mueller does not record that Comey was at this meeting.)
4:00PM: Meeting at Card’s office with Mueller, Comey, attorneys from OLC, VP, Card, Gonzales, Hayden and others. (Note, this meeting is basically an extension of the earlier meeting, this time with the lawyers from DOJ present.)
Time unknown: Comey refuses to reauthorize the program.
Wednesday, March 10
Time unknown: Briefing for the Gang of Eight (Denny Hastert, Bill Frist, Porter Goss, Pat Roberts, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle, Jane Harman, and Jello Jay). According to Gonzales, at the briefing "the lawmakers rejected emergency legislation but recommended that the program should continue despite the Justice Department’s opposition." Jello Jay disputes Gonzales’ account; it is unclear how he and Jane Harman responded.. Nancy Pelosi opposed the continuation of the program.
7:15PM? (Comey says around 8:00, but before the call to Mueller at 7:20): Ashcroft Chief of Staff David Ayres calls Comey as he is on his way home. He says Mrs. Ashcroft has received a call–possibly from the President–and "as a result of that call Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft."