Goodling accuses Deputy Attorney General of withholding information from Congress; Admits 'I crossed the line'
The House Judiciary Committee received testimony Wednesday morning from former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling, who appeared before the Committee only after being granted limited immunity from prosecution. She suggested to the Committee that the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, had not been forthright with the House Judiciary Committee in his testimony on the firing of the US Attorneys. Later in the hearing, she also appeared to admit to break laws on using political considerations in making hiring decisions.
In her prepared remarks, Goodling blamed the Deputy Attorney General for much of the controversy.
"I did not withhold information from the Deputy [Attorney General]...despite my and others' best efforts, the Deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects," she said. "I believe the Deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision, failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House's interest in selecting Tim Griffin as interim US Attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, inaccurately described the Department's internal assessment of the [bipartisan commission that selects Attorneys in California], and failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in 'vote caging' in the President's 2004 campaign."
She also said that she was not involved in the White House's decision making on the US Attorneys.
"Despite [the title of White House Liaison], I did not hold the 'keys to the kingdom' as some have suggested," she said, claiming she had not met with Karl Rove or Harriet Miers to discuss the hiring or firing of the Attorneys in question.
Goodling also insisted that she had been ignored by Kyle Sampson, as she recommended that Paul Charlton of Arizona and Daniel Bogden of Nevada be removed from an early version of Sampson's list, and they were subsequently fired.
Finally, Goodling was adamant that no politics were involved in the firing of the Attorneys.
"I'm not aware of anybody within the Department ever suggesting the replacement of these US Attorneys to interfere with any particular case or in retaliation for prosecuting or refusing to prosecute any particular case for political advantage," she testified.
At the start of the hearing, Goodling invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination as a procedural matter, making it possible for the Judiciary Committee to grant her limited use immunity from prosecution for her statement.
Goodling put the responsibility for deciding who would be recommended to be fired squarely on the shoulders of the Attorney General's former Chief of Staff, D. Kyle Sampson.
"Mr. Sampson compiled the list, I know that he did speak to the Deputy Attorney General about it, and I know that he presented it to the Attorney General," she told Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in questioning.
'I know I crossed the line' says Goodling
Goodling was later quizzed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) about whether or not she had broken any civil service laws in blocking the employment of any particular Justice Department applicants.
"I know I crossed the line," she answered.
A video clip of Goodling's exchange with Scott, in which additional matters are disccused, is presented below from CNN Pipeline.
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Linda Sanchez had asked Goodling if she had used political considerations in her hiring decisions, an authority that Attorney General Gonzales had delegated to her and Sampson. Sanchez first asked about a Howard University Law School who had worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and whom she had reportedly dismissed as a 'Liberal Democrat.'
"I think that when I did look at that resume, I made a snap judgment and I regret it," she said, though noting that the applicant was later hired.
Sanchez then asked if she had blocked many applicants on the basis of their political orientation.
"I wouldn't be able to give you a number, I don't feel like there were very many cases where I had those thoughts," she said. "I want to be honest, there were cases when I looked at resumes and I thought, you know, I don't know if this is the person that the new US Attorney would want to hire, so why don't we just wait and let them get the request, and if they want to hire them they can."
Republican says probe cost '$250,000 of the taxpayers' money'
A Republican Congressman who used to to chair the Judiciary Committee continued to slam the idea that the investigation of the US Attorneys controversy was ongoing.
"This committee has spent $250,000 of the taxpayers' money basically investigating the replacement of US Attorneys whose terms have expired," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
"I was the Chairman of this committee for six years during the Bush administration...I never signed a subpoena because I didn't have to," he added. "It seems to me that with this fishing expedition, there ain't no fish in the water, and we spent an awful lot of time and an awful lot of money finding that out."
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, which has issued the subpoenas of Justice Department staff, also argued that the investigation was unnecessary, failing to answer any questions of Goodling. Instead, he praised Goodling for her hard work and instead took aim at Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) over a recent dispute that led House Republicans to attempt to reprimand the veteran Democrat.
"On the other hand, we're not doing this in a vacuum," he said. "I would like to read from the LA Times about another problem that we have facing Congress that we're not actually dealing with here, but which I think is relevant in balancing out the vituperation that has tended to go on."
Rove 'needs to be here post-haste'
In the hearing, Democratic Members of the Committee emphasized the need to receive testimony from White House staff who were involved in the hiring and firing of the US Attorneys.
"For me, I can say that I cannot give you the White House story," Goodling told Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) in the hearing.
The Congresswoman responded, "I want the record to be clear that the only way we can get to the full truth is if Mr. Karl Rove is sitting in the very same seat that you're sitting in, and he needs to be here, and he needs to be here post-haste."
At the beginning of the hearing, Rep. Conyers had made a similar appeal.
"I would hope that [Goodling's] testimony would encourage others to come forward and cooperate with our inquiry," she said. "That includes personnel in the White House itself, whose role in this inquiry appears to grow more central every day every time another Department of Justice official denies recommending putting any particular prosecutor on the firing list."
The hearing recessed around 1 PM, and resumed in a later session.