Goodling Up Today, but Gonzales Vote Likely Off

Posted May 22, 2007 at 6:37pm

Facing pressure from a crowded floor schedule, Democrats are set to postpone an unprecedented no-confidence vote on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales until after the Memorial Day recess.

Senior Democratic sources confirmed on Tuesday that the vote probably would not occur until after the recess but insisted they were not giving up on the strategy.

“We will definitely offer it. The question is how and when,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the resolution’s sponsors.

“Immigration has sort of crowded everything else out,” added one Senate Democratic staffer.

Republicans had promised to counter the resolution with controversial motions of their own that undoubtedly would have delayed bringing the measure to the floor.

Meanwhile, star witness Monica Goodling is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee this morning.

A former Justice Department liaison to the White House and counsel to Gonzales, Goodling is the only former or current Justice official to have asserted her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the ongoing scandal. She resigned shortly after the scandal broke.

Democrats want to know the real reasons behind the firings of nine federal prosecutors by the Justice Department in 2006, which appear to have been carried out in close collaboration with the White House.

The House Judiciary Committee granted Goodling immunity to compel her testimony and is hoping she will shed light on the firing process in which e-mails released to the committee show she was heavily involved.

But Democrats cautioned not to expect any smoking guns from Goodling, a conservative Republican who has been accused of improperly applying political criteria in hiring and firing decisions while at Justice.

“She’s not going to be John Dean,” remarked one Judiciary Democratic staffer, referring to the former Nixon aide who turned against the White House during Watergate.

“I suspect she’s probably a ‘loyal Bushie,’” the aide added, echoing the words of another Justice staffer who invoked that term in the e-mails to separate strong prosecutors from weak ones.

Goodling, 33, is a former opposition researcher at the Republican National Committee and a 1999 graduate of Regent University School of Law, which was founded by Pat Robertson. Goodling rapidly rose through the ranks at Justice and appears, from the thousands of pages of Justice documents and e-mails, to have played a key role in ousting the U.S. attorneys.

Along with former Gonzales Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, Goodling may have helped maintain the infamous lists of those prosecutors considered for possible ouster. Those lists also included whether the prosecutors were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

“Monica Goodling’s testimony is a critical step in our investigation,” declared House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.).

In a related legal squabble, Conyers wrote a May 22 letter to Goodling’s attorney, John Dowd, demanding access to documents in her possession relevant to the probe. But Dowd countered that Goodling will not provide select records — which include some unredacted versions of documents Justice already has transferred to Congress — without permission from the Justice Department.

Democrats specifically want to question Goodling as to who misled certain Justice witnesses, including former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, about why the nine prosecutors were ousted. McNulty at first maintained that the prosecutors were fired for “performance-based” reasons but later privately told Democrats that he had not been given the full story.

Democrats also hope Goodling, as an ex-White House liaison, will shed light on how deeply involved White House officials such as presidential aide Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers were in the firing process.

This week, the battle continued over securing Hill testimony from Rove and Miers, with Conyers penning a May 21 letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding making “one last appeal” for cooperation in making those witnesses voluntarily available.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a similar letter to Fielding on May 16. Both committees have voted to authorize the issuance of subpoenas to Rove and Miers but — mindful of the lengthy legal battle that likely would ensue — have not actually issued them.

Fielding has offered to allow Rove and Miers to testify not under oath and without a transcript, but Democrats on both sides of the Capitol have rejected that proposal.

Democrats also will press Goodling on the so-called ninth U.S. attorney who was fired in January 2006 — former Kansas City prosecutor Todd Graves.

Gonzales told House investigators that Graves was asked to resign for separate reasons than the other eight prosecutors. But his replacement was Bradley Schlozman, a controversial former senior civil rights attorney at Justice who pursued a voter-fraud probe in Missouri that Graves had refused to sanction. Senate Democrats on Tuesday announced that Schlozman will testify before the Judiciary Committee on June 5.

And Democrats also likely will pursue how much authority Goodling had to hire and fire Justice appointees. They probably will raise a secret March 2006 memo in which Gonzales delegated personnel decisions regarding all political appointees in the department to Goodling and Sampson.

And they likely will ask her about allegations, which are the subject of an internal Justice probe, that she improperly used political criteria in judging job candidates for positions in interim U.S. attorney offices.