Former Justice aide says she ‘crossed the line’

first_img“I did not hold the keys to the kingdom as some have suggested,” Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee. Goodling testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution because her lawyers said she would otherwise refuse to answer questions on grounds that it would violate her right against self-incrimination. With a crush of cameras whirring in the hearing room and one lawmaker snapping pictures with his cell phone, the 33-year-old aide took her seat in the witness chair for five hours of testimony that brought Congress little closer to understanding the administration’s motives for dismissing prosecutors. “There remains basic unanswered questions about how and why the termination list was created, how it was compiled, how it was revised and how it was finalized,” Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who serves as the committee chairman, said at the close of the hearing. Goodling, wearing a Navy blue suit and sitting alone at the witness table with her hands folded neatly in her lap, answered questions softly, carefully and often deferentially in a way that seemed to clash with descriptions of her as an abrasive conservative at the Justice Department. WASHINGTON – A former top Justice Department aide testified Wednesday that she had “crossed the line” in considering the political beliefs of applicants for nonpartisan legal jobs and suggested that earlier testimony by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and another top official might have been flawed. Monica M. Goodling, the former Justice Department official, told a House panel that she regretted favoring applicants with Republican credentials for lower-level prosecutor jobs or prestigious postings at the department’s headquarters, actions that could violate federal employment laws. “I may have made gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account,” Goodling said. “I regret those mistakes.” But she said that even though she was the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, she did not play a significant role in firings and never discussed them with Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, or Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel. The young lawyer joined the department in 2002 after working for the Republican National Committee as an opposition researcher, but with no experience as a prosecutor. From a job as a junior aide in the press office, she moved up rapidly to the attorney general’s staff with authority over hiring and promotions throughout the department. Her dedication was valued by some political appointees allied with the Bush White House. But some lawyers in the civil service ranks reviled her as an ideologue who circumvented experienced prosecutors to carry out the administration’s political agenda. Goodling appeared to contradict Gonzales’ testimony to the committee earlier this month in which he said he had not spoken to his senior aides since the firings “to protect the integrity of this investigation.” During a March meeting before she resigned, Goodling said, Gonzales asked her questions that left her uncomfortable. She said she thought he might be attempting to compare recollections, so their stories would be consistent if they were questioned about their actions. “I just thought that we should not be having that conversation,” she said. Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a written statement that Gonzales “has never attempted to influence or shape the testimony or public statements of any witness in this matter, including Ms. Goodling.” Roehrkasse said “the statements made by the attorney general during this meeting were intended only to comfort her in a very difficult period.” Goodling also accused Paul J. McNulty, the outgoing deputy attorney general, of misleading a Senate panel when he testified on Feb. 6. Specifically, she said McNulty knew more details about the White House involvement in the firings than he acknowledged in his testimony. “I believe he was not fully candid,” she said. Later, McNulty sharply denied her assertions. “I testified truthfully at the Feb. 6, 2007, hearing based on what I knew at that time,” he said in written statement. “Ms. Goodling’s characterization of my testimony is wrong and not supported by the extensive record of documents and testimony already provided to Congress.” To show support for the beleaguered Gonzales, Republican lawmakers embraced Goodling on Wednesday as a sympathetic witness. Several praised her testimony and said it proved that the investigation into the firings led by congressional Democrats was not justified. “It seems to me that with this fishing expedition there ain’t no fish in the water, and we’ve spent an awful lot of time and an awful lot of money finding that out,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. Goodling acknowledged repeatedly that she improperly sought to gauge the political leanings of applicants when she reviewed resumes for nonpartisan jobs or promotions, including posts as assistant U.S. attorneys and immigration judges or for temporary assignments at Justice headquarters. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more