Comey said it was set in motion by a call from the White House, possibly from Bush himself, to Ashcroft's hospital room, informing the attorney general's wife that Gonzales and Card were on their way to see him. Comey said that upon learning of the call around 8 p.m., he called his chief of staff and FBI Director Mueller to ask that they meet him at the hospital immediately.
"I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that," Comey said. He added later, "I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded . . . was unable to be certified as to its legality."
Comey said (FBI Director) Mueller instructed FBI agents at the hospital by phone "not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances." (!!!!)
Soon afterward, Gonzales, accompanied by Card, walked in carrying an envelope and explained that he wanted Ashcroft to sign a presidential order, Comey said.
"And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me," he said. "He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter . . . and then laid his head back down on the pillow [and] seemed spent. . . . And as he laid back down, he said, 'But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney general,' and he pointed to me."