Soft-spoken and reclusive, Donald Evans was an unassuming figure in George W. Bush’s administration in 2001. A longtime friend of “double-yew,” as he referred to Bush, the Texas-born energy mogul became one of many cabinet members upon whom Bush bestowed favoritism, a gesture of reciprocity toward those who had sworn fealty to 43 throughout his years as an elected official. While serving as the 34th Secretary of Commerce Evans kept to the shadows, seldom leaving his office unless summoned to meetings. Barely visible to begin with, he faded into total obscurity until surfacing as a witness for the prosecution Monday afternoon at Bush’s military tribunal.
He appeared on ZOOM to testify against his former boss.
Rear Adm. Darse E. Crandall addressed the witness. “Mr. Evans, this commission thanks you for being here. Could you please tell this panel what you said to me when you were first interviewed?”
As expected, Bush’s lawyer David Aufhauser voiced an objection, saying it was “highly unorthodox” to call a witness that he had not been given an opportunity to interview.
Bush for the first time raised his voice. “Of all the people, Donald, I never thought you—” he croaked.
But Rear Adm. Crandall interrupted them, saying he’d clear the chamber and finish the tribunal with Bush and Aufhauser in absentia unless all present agreed to maintain order. The commission, he said, would hear Evans’ testimony.
“I was in my office, as usual, Monday morning—that was September 10, 2001. At about 10 or 11 that morning, I can’t recall the exact time, Bush called my office phone. He said he had something to tell me. His voice, it sounded shaky—I don’t know how else to describe it. Nervous maybe. See, at the time I had family and friends working in the towers. Out of nowhere, he tells me I should tell them to not go in that day. In fact, he told me they should avoid the city,” Evans said.
“The defendant, George W. Bush, told you this? And you’re certain it was his voice on the phone?” Rear Adm. Crandall asked.
“I’ve known the man for 50 years. I’m sure I know his voice,” Evans replied.
“And did he share with you why your friends or family should avoid the towers, and Manhattan, that Tuesday, September 11?” Rear Adm. Crandall said.
“He only said something might happen, and that if it did, I was never to speak of it or the warning he gave me. He said it in a non-threatening but intimidating way, and you’d have to really know him to grasp what I mean,” Evans said.
“Did you take his advice? Did you warn them?” Rear Adm. Crandall asked.
“I did not, because I didn’t want to believe he could be serious. If I had, they’d still be alive today,” Evans said.
“And you were so fearful of Bush’s wrath that you never once in 20 years mentioned his warning to anyone?” Rear Adm. Crandall asked.
“That’s untrue. I sent a letter to the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Keane. He chose, I guess, to omit it from the final report,” Evans said.
After a pause, Rear Adm. Crandall asked whether the defense wished to cross-examine the witness.
“I have only two questions for you, Mr. Evans. First, did Rear Adm. Crandall, JAG, or the OMC make you any promises in return for your testimony today?” Aufhauser said.
“Do you have any proof this alleged call between you and the defendant ever took place? An audio tape, perhaps. Notes? A copy of the letter you sent to the 9/11 Commission?” Aufhauser pressed him.
Seemingly satisfied at the responses, Aufhauser had no added questions, and Rear Adm. Crandall said the next witness would appear before the tribunal Tuesday morning.