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Former US Justice Official Testifies About Attorneys Controversy


Monica Goodling, a former Department of Justice official and aide to U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzalez, has testified before Congress in the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, majority Democrats say the testimony prompts many new questions, while Republicans say it failed to reveal any information that would damage the attorney general

Monica Goodling was granted partial immunity in return for her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee after she asserted her constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

Goodling said although she had the title of Justice Department White House Liaison, her contacts with the White House were limited, and she was not a decision-maker.

"I did not hold the keys to the kingdom as some have suggested. I was not the primary White House contact for purposes of the development or approval of the U.S. attorney replacement plan. I never attended a meeting of the White House judicial selection committee. The attorney general and [his former chief of staff] Kyle Sampson attended those meetings. To the best of my recollection I have never had a conversation with Karl Rove or Harriet Meiers while I served at the Department of Justice, and I am certain that I never spoke to either of them about the hiring or firing of any U.S. attorney," he said.

Goodling said she did have discussions with staff members of Rove and Meiers, in her words, "regarding specific aspects of the replacement plan", and acknowledged she attended one meeting after the decision to fire the attorneys was made, at which Rove was present.

But she denies ever recommending that specific prosecutors be added to or removed from a list compiled by Kyle Sampson, and does not recall any recommendations coming from the White House.

In resisting calls for his resignation, from Democrats as well as Republicans, Attorney General Gonzalez has maintained that none of the dismissed U.S. attorneys were removed for political reasons, although he acknowledged the matter was handled badly.

Democratic House judiciary committee chairman John Conyers says Goodling's testimony shows there is much more to be learned about possible White House involvement in the firings.

"We have learned today that trust has been violated, that false statements have been made under oath, not Monica Goodling's, and there is a possible obstruction of justice, as well as perjury," he said.

Conyers was referring to Goodling's testimony that Attorney General Gonzalez appeared to have made false statements to Congress, and that a former deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty, withheld information during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But Congressman Chris Cannon, a Republican on the committee, assessed the testimony this way. "There were no surprises here today. There was nothing of interest even. Nothing to indicate any kind of corruption. And the premise of all of the activity here is corruption, and we just did not see that," he said.

In her testimony Wednesday, Goodling did acknowledge that she "crossed the line" by taking political considerations into account in some hiring decisions at the justice department.

Neither Paul McNulty, the former deputy attorney general mentioned in Goodling's testimony, nor Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to the attorney general, have testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

But saying that plenty has gone wrong and contradictions are all over the place, Congressman Conyers is raising the possibility of calling both of those former officials to testify, along with a repeat appearance by the attorney general.

Gonzales also faces possible no-confidence measures, introduced by Democrats in the House and Senate, although these have yet to be acted upon.

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