The Justice Department’s former White House liaison denied Wednesday that she played a major role in the firings of U.S. attorneys last year and blamed Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty for misleading Congress about the dismissals.
McNulty’s explanation, on Feb. 6, “was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects,” Monica Goodling told a packed House Judiciary Committee inquiry into the firings.
She added: “I believe the deputy was not fully candid.”
I won’t pretend to know what her testimony means for McNulty, but as for the purposes of the hearing, and as it relates to charges hurled at Alberto Gonzales and other administration officials, Goodling pretty well backs up what was said all along:
Goodling told the House committee that she and others at the Justice Department fully briefed McNulty, who is resigning later this year, about the circumstances before his Feb. 6 testimony in front of a Senate panel. Goodling also said Kyle Sampson, who resigned in March as chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, compiled the list of prosecutors who were purged last year.
She said she never spoke to former White House counsel Harriet Miers or Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, about the firings.
Depending on what the full transcript provides, it appears to me that Goodling’s testimony does two things: (1) it makes clear that this investigation is little more than political theater, and (2) it conclusively puts the nail in Gonzales’ coffin, by evincing his complete lack of management and oversight of the DOJ.
In addition, if those making decisions about who would be fired were not even consulting with the Administration, much less the AG himself, then the charges that the White House was attempting to influence elections and specific investigations of cronies (which were pretty weak to begin with) would seem to be without much support. It doesn’t make much sense to claim that Karl Rove and his evil minions were behind such devious machinations if they didn’t have anything to do with the process.
Kyle Sampson and Mike McNulty, on the other hand, may have something to worry about (see also here for why the Bush Administration is not entirely off the hook regarding USA Iglesias). I would hope that, in the very least, what started as congressional kabuki would result in delivering just desserts to those who transgressed the trust placed in them. If either of them sought to fire U.S Attorney’s for such a calculated reason as retribution for failing to indict political opponents, then they deserve to be punished.
Also, Goodling’s testimony revealed another interesting tidbit:
But she admitted to have considered applicants for jobs as career prosecutors based on their political loyalties - a violation of federal law.
“I may have gone too far, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions,” Goodling said. “And I regret those mistakes.”
I’ll wager that she is not the first person to weigh political loyalties in the calculus of hiring career DOJ officials, and she certainly won’t be the last. That, after all, is the nature of the beast. When politicians and their agents are charged with a task, it is nigh on impossible to expect that political considerations won’t enter the decision-making process. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see it out there in the open, even if nothing can really be done about it. In the very least, it may indicate to some people that government is not objective and disinterested, no matter how much you may wish it to be.
As for the main purpose of the investigation, claiming another administration scalp, Goodling’s testimony does not appear to help, and may in fact hurt any further witch-hunting.
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