Goodling Accuses McNulty of Misleading Congress
By James Rowley and Robert Schmidt
May 23, 2007

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- A former top Justice Department aide denied knowledge of any improper White House role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and accused Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty of misleading Congress about the dismissals.

Monica Goodling, the former White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, told the House Judiciary Committee she had no discussions before the firings with Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, or then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

Goodling testified that she "crossed the line" by inquiring into political affiliations of people applying for career jobs at the Justice Department. She disputed McNulty's assertion that she withheld information from him about the extent of White House involvement in replacing U.S. attorneys before his Feb. 6 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony.

"The deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects," Goodling said. "I believe that the deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision."

McNulty, in a statement released by the Justice Department, said she was wrong.

"I testified truthfully at the Feb. 6, 2007, hearing based on what I knew at that time," he said. "Ms. Goodling's characterization of my testimony is wrong and not supported by the extensive record of documents and testimony already provided to Congress."

Political Motives

House and Senate committees are investigating whether the firings were carried out for improper political motives such as to spur investigations of Democrats or squelch those of Republicans.

Goodling, testifying under a limited grant of immunity from prosecution, said she was "not aware of anyone" in the Justice Department "ever suggesting the replacement" of prosecutors "to interfere with a particular case."

Likewise, she told Texas Republican Lamar Smith she had "no knowledge" of White House aides requesting dismissals as retribution for failing to prosecute Democrats or for investigating Republicans.

Even though she was Gonzales's White House liaison, "I did not hold the keys to the kingdom" and only discussed the plan to fire U.S. attorneys with subordinates of Miers and Rove, Goodling said. She said she didn't recall that these aides ever passed along a recommendation to fire a prosecutor.

White House Involvement

During his Feb. 6 Senate testimony, McNulty -- who is resigning from the No. 2 job at the Justice Department -- said the White House was consulted about the dismissals before they were made in late December.

Goodling, 33, said that during his testimony McNulty was "downplaying the role of the White House" in the firings. McNulty "was aware the Department of Justice had worked for at least several months with the White House," which "had signed off" on the dismissals, she said.

Goodling also charged that McNulty "failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House's interest" in replacing H.E. "Bud" Cummins III, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, with Tim Griffin, a former aide to Rove.

Rove and Miers wanted to hire Griffin, according to e-mails turned over to Congress.

McNulty also neglected to disclose he was aware of allegations that Griffin helped Republicans suppress votes by blacks in the 2004 presidential election, Goodling said. Goodling said she had briefed McNulty about the White House interest in appointing Griffin and the voter-suppression allegations, which she called groundless.

Briefing of Lawmakers

Goodling, who resigned her position on Gonzales's staff on April 7, also said McNulty told her not to attend a Feb. 14 briefing of lawmakers because her role as White House liaison might mean that lawmakers "would be more likely to ask questions about the White House." Goodling said she waited outside.

She later testified that she wasn't accusing McNulty of deliberate deception. "In some ways, he simply did not communicate all" he knew, Goodling said.

Afterward, Michigan Representative John Conyers, the panel's Democratic chairman, it was imperative that McNulty testify before the House panel.

Goodling said that before she took leave in March, Gonzales "made me a little uncomfortable" when he asked about her recollection about why Cummins was replaced. She said the attorney general disagreed with McNulty's description that Cummins was replaced purely to make a place for Griffin.

`Shape Your Recollection?'

Goodling said she didn't respond to Gonzales's question. "I did not think it appropriate for us to be discussing our recollection," she said, because "we would all have to talk about our conversations" to Congress or internal investigators.

Representative Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat, asked whether "the attorney general was trying to shape your recollection?"

"No," she replied.

Later, Davis asked Goodling whether her conversation with Gonzales squared with the attorney general's May 10 House testimony that he hadn't "gone back and spoken directly" with aides about the firings to "protect the integrity" of investigations.

"Is that testimony sworn under oath fully accurate?" Davis asked.

"I don't know what period he is referencing," she replied. "Certainly early in this process there were a lot of conversations. At some point it is clear the attorney general stopped talking to people."

`May Have Misled'

New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement that Gonzales "may have misled" Congress. "At worst, he may have tried to influence Ms. Goodling's testimony," the senator said.

Goodling's conduct in hiring career Justice Department officials is the subject of an internal agency investigation. Today, she said she "may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions and may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions."

Inquiring into an applicant's political affiliations to hire career prosecutors would violate civil service rules.

"I crossed the line of the civil service rules," she said. "But I didn't mean to."

Under questioning by lawmakers, Goodling contradicted her statement in written testimony that she told "several senior" Justice Department officials of her "reservations" about McNulty's testimony.

Goodling said she didn't mention the inaccuracies to Gonzales, McNulty or William Moschella, McNulty's chief deputy, because agency officials believed the political controversy over the firings would blow over. "We thought we were on the way to resolving it," she said. "I just forgot it, I guess."

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at ; Robert Schmidt in Washington at .

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