Yesterday, Monica Goodling, the former Justice Department liaison to the White House, finally testified before Congress about her role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys last year. Expectations were high for Goodling, who had negotiated immunity after invoking her fifth amendment rights, with some saying she held “the keys to the kingdom” of the scandal. But her appearance before the House Judiciary Committee resulted in more of the same — yet another Justice official deflecting responsibility for the firings while pointing fingers at others. Goodling is the fifth Justice official involved in the firings to testify before Congress about the scandal, but after all the testimonies, including two appearances by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, no one has offered an explanation for where the list of potential targets came from and why particular attorneys were placed on it.
- The Attorney General attempted to shape Goodling’s testimony. Perhaps the most damaging revelation in Goodling’s testimony was her disclosure that right before she took a leave of absence from the Department of Justice, Alberto Gonzales personally attempted to shape her future testimony to Congress about the U.S. attorney purge. Describing it as an “uncomfortable” conversation, Goodling claimed that in a personal meeting with Gonzales, he “laid out…his general recollection…of some of the process…regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.” After he had “laid out a little bit of it,” Gonzales asked Goodling if she “had any reaction to his iteration.” “I didn’t know that it was, maybe, appropriate for us to talk about that at that point,” she added. The conversation took place on either March 14th or 15th, a week after “the House Judiciary Committee requested that Goodling testify before the committee.” Her testimony indicates that the Attorney General may have crossed “into a borderline area of coaching a likely witness before the eventual testimony,” which could potentially be viewed as obstruction of justice under 18 USC section 1505. Goodling denied that Gonzales was trying to “shape” her “recollection,” though she acknowledged that the conversation was not “appropriate.”
- Goodling took partisan affiliations into account when hiring career employees at the Justice Department. In March 2006, in a highly confidential order, Alberto Gonzales delegated to Goodling and Kyle Sampson extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. In her opening statement yesterday, Goodling admitted to abusing that power by taking “inappropriate political considerations into account” while hiring career employees at the Department. Goodling’s actions, which included questioning applicants about their political preferences and even researching their past political donations, were against the law, as “federal law and Justice Department policies bar the consideration of political affiliation in hiring of personnel for non-political, career jobs.”