John David Ashcroft (born May 9 1942) is an American politician who was the 79th United States Attorney General. He served during the first term of President George W. Bush from 2001 until 2005. Ashcroft was previously the Governor of Missouri (1985–1993) and a U.S. Senator from Missouri (1995–2001).
Ashcroft went to school in Springfield, Missouri. He attended Yale University, where he was a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, graduating in 1964. He received a J.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1967.
During the Vietnam War, he received six student draft deferments and one occupational deferment due to his teaching work.
In 1974, Ashcroft was narrowly defeated for re-election by Jackson County Executive George W. Lehr, who argued that Ashcroft, not an accountant, was unqualified to be the state auditor. Jack Danforth, who was then in his second term as state attorney general, hired Ashcroft as an assistant Missouri attorney general. During his tenure as an assistant AG, Ashcroft shared an office with future Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. (In 2001, Thomas administered Ashcroft's oath of office as US attorney general.)
In 1976 Danforth was elected to the United States Senate, and Ashcroft was elected to replace him as attorney general. Ashcroft was re-elected in 1980.
As Governor, Ashcroft helped enact tougher standards and sentencing for gun crimes, increased funding for local law enforcement, and tougher standards and punishment for people bringing guns into schools. While Ashcroft was in office:
In 1998, Ashcroft briefly considered running for president, but on January 5, 1999, he announced that he would not seek the presidency and would instead defend his Senate seat in his 2000 reelection.
In the Republican primary, Ashcroft defeated Marc Perkel. In the general election, Ashcroft faced a challenge from then-Governor Mel Carnahan. In the midst of a tight race, Carnahan died in an airplane crash two weeks prior to the November general election. Carnahan's name remained on the ballot because of Missouri state election laws. Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson became Governor upon Carnahan's death. Wilson announced that should Carnahan be elected, he would appoint his widow, Jean Carnahan, to serve in her husband's place; Mrs. Carnahan agreed to this arrangement. Ashcroft suspended all campaigning after the plane crash in light of the tragedy.
In spite of his being dead, voters elected Mel Carnahan by a narrow margin. No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate, though voters had on at least three occasions chosen deceased candidates for the House.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Ashcroft was a key supporter of passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. One of the provisions in that act was the controversial Section 215, which allows the FBI to make an application for an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requiring production of "any tangible thing" for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Ashcroft referred to American Library Association opposition to Section 215 as "hysteria" in two separate speeches given in September, 2003. While Attorney General, Ashcroft consistently denied that the FBI or any other law enforcement agency had used the Patriot Act to obtain library circulation records or those of retail sales.
On November 9, 2004, following George W. Bush's re-election, Ashcroft announced his resignation, which took effect on February 3, 2005 when the Senate confirmation of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales as the next Attorney General. Some believe his health was a factor in his decision. His hand-written resignation letter, dated November 2, stated: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
In 2005 year-end filings, Ashcroft's firm reported collecting $269,000, including $220,000 from Oracle Corporation, which won Department of Justice approval of a multibillion-dollar acquisition less than a month after hiring Ashcroft. The year-end filing represented, in some cases, only initial payments.
According to government filings, Oracle is one of the Ashcroft Group’s five clients that seek his help in selling data or software with homeland security applications. Another client, Israel Aircraft Industries International, is competing with Chicago's Boeing Company to sell the government of South Korea a billion-dollar airborne radar system. The Ashcroft Group is also registered to represent ChoicePoint, eBay, Exegy, Alanco Technologies, LTU Technologies and TrafficLand, Inc.
In March 2006, the New York Times reported that Ashcroft was setting himself up as something of an "anti-Abramoff", and that in an hour long interview, Ashcroft used the word integrity scores of times.. In May 2006, based on conversations with members of Congress, key aides and lobbyists, The Hill magazine listed Ashcroft as one of top 50 "hired guns" that K Street had to offer. In August 2006, the Washington Post reported that Ashcroft's firm had 30 clients, many of which made products or technology aimed at homeland security, and about a third of which the firm has not disclosed, to protect client confidentiality. The firm also had equity stakes in eight client companies. It reported receiving $1.4 million in lobbying fees in the past six months, a small fraction of its total earnings.
After the proposed merger of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., Ashcroft offered the firm his consulting services, according to spokesman for XM. The spokesman said XM declined Ashcroft's offer to work as a lobbyist for the company. Ashcroft was subsequently hired by the National Association of Broadcasters, which is strongly opposed to the merger.
In July 2002, Ashcroft proposed the creation of Operation TIPS, a domestic program in which workers and government employees would inform law enforcement agencies about suspicious behavior they encounter while performing their duties. The program was criticized in the media as an encroachment upon the First and Fourth Amendments, and the United States Postal Service balked at the program, refusing outright to participate. Ashcroft defended the program as a necessary component of the ongoing War on Terrorism, but the proposal was eventually abandoned.
Ashcroft was responsible for draft legislation the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, which proposed to greatly expand the powers of the U.S. government to fight crime and terrorism, while simultaneously eliminating or curtailing judicial review of these powers for incidents involving domestic terrorism. The bill was leaked and posted to the Internet on February 7, 2003.
On May 26, 2004, Ashcroft held a news conference at which he said that intelligence from multiple sources indicated that al Qaeda intended to attack the United States in the coming months. Critics said this was an attempt to distract attention from a drop in the approval ratings of President Bush, who was campaigning for re-election.
However, groups supporting the civil liberties protected by the Second Amendment lauded Ashcroft's Justice Department support for the Second Amendment. He said specifically, "the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms," thus embracing the position that the second amendment expresses an individual, not collective, right. At the time NRA president Sandra Froman said, "When these Bush Administration officials affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, the enemy's of freedom were outraged because they fear the Second Amendment for what it really is a shield against oppression."
When Karl Rove was being questioned by the FBI over the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity in the press, Ashcroft was allegedly briefed about the investigation. Democratic U.S. Representative John Conyers described this, and many other acts of Republicans as a "stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation. Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter asking for a formal investigation of the time between the start of Rove's investigation and John Ashcroft's recusal.
Gonzales has contradicted Comey's account of the events. He stated: "Clearly if he (Ashcroft) had been competent and understood the facts and had been inclined to do so, yes we would have asked him. Andy Card and I didn't press him. We said 'Thank you' and we left.
As many as 30 Department of Justice senior staff were prepared to resign immediately, protesting both the underhanded effort to go around acting A.G. Comey to get the program re-authorized, and also in protest of the Bush Administration's effort to continue the warrantless search program without change, contrary to the DOJ's then current assessment of the program's lack of legal basis. Ashcroft has been requested to appear before House and Senate Intelligence Committees in a closed-door hearing, in June 2007, to describe the incident, and circumstances surrounding the program more completely. Gonzales resigned his position of Attorney General on September 17, 2007.
While Attorney General of Missouri, Ashcroft and his wife, co-wrote a textbook entitled College Law for Business.
Ashcroft composed a paean called "Let the Eagle Soar" which he sang at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in February 2002. The rendition was satirically featured in Michael Moore's 2004 movie Fahrenheit 9/11 and has been frequently mocked by comedians such as David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and David Cross, to name a few. The song was also sung at Bush's 2005 inauguration by Guy Hovis, former cast member of The Lawrence Welk Show. Ashcroft has penned and sung a number of other songs and created compilation tapes, including In the Spirit of Life and Liberty and Gospel (Music) According to John.
Other books written by Ashcroft are On My Honor: The Beliefs that Shape My Life and Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice.
John Ashcroft is referred to, along with Fox News, in Immortal Technique's "Freedom of Speech" among other things, as "manipulating your opinion, telling you what to think."