Rear Adm. Darse E. Crandall opened Monday’s proceedings by reading a handwritten note Dick Cheney had given to George W. Bush in June 2001. Penmanship analysis experts, he told the panel, had verified the text and signature as Cheney’s.
“Per our Tuesday talk, have reached out to contacts. They’re on board if the price is right. They want a lot of money. It’s trivial compared to what we stand to make in the long run. Half up front, half when done. We should meet for lunch soon in New York or Washington,” Rear Adm. Crandall read.
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On cue, Bush’s attorney David Aufhauser challenged the letter’s authenticity, demanding to know how JAG had magically come into possession of a scrap of paper that was over 20 years old and arguing that the message was so nebulous that no sane or intelligent person could infer criminal intent.
Aufhauser perspired, wiping sweat from his brow, and seemed visibly unnerved. His day hadn’t started on a good note. Ahead of court, he admitted to Rear Adm. Crandall that his digital forensic expert had authenticated the microcassette introduced into evidence on Friday and conceded that the voices on the tape “likely” were Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney’s.
He looked at the note and called it “chicken scratch.”
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“Your client isn’t adept at destroying evidence,” Rear Adm. Crandall said. “This was found among other evidence seized at his Crawford ranch. Look, this commission freely admits that Cheney did all the planning for 9/11. Bush sure doesn’t have the brains to do it. Until we catch Cheney, and we will catch him, we won’t know everything. But Bush had final authority, and he abused his authority to wage war on this country and the world. The panel, not you, Mr. Aufhauser, will decide which evidence is valid. You’ve had a chance to hear the entire tape; the panel deserves that privilege.”
He resumed the tape:
Cheney: “The less you know right now, the better. Plausible deniability. You just have to trust I know what I’m doing, George.”
Rumsfeld: “Has to be multi-pronged here. I don’t want to be the one to explain why $2.3t is missing, or where it went.”