Goodling: Gonzales tried to review story
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer 46 minutes
WASHINGTON - A former Justice Department official at
the center of the uproar over prosecutor firings told
House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales tried to review his story of the
dismissals with her at a time when lawmakers were
homing in on conflicting accounts.
"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling,
Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her
conversation with the attorney general just before she
took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know
if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our
recollections of what had happened."
In a daylong appearance before the Democrat-led
House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also
acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by
considering the party affiliations of candidates for
career prosecutor jobs a violation of law.
And she said that Gonzales' No. 2, Deputy Attorney
General Paul McNulty knew more than he let on when he
misled Congress about how extensively the White House
was involved in deciding which prosecutors to fire.
McNulty strongly denied it.
Goodling's dramatic story about her final conversation
with Gonzales brought questions from panel members
about whether he had tried to align her story with his
and whether he was not truthful in his own
Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last
month that he didn't know the answers to some
questions about the firings because he was steering
clear of aides such as Goodling who were likely to
"I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact
that I haven't wanted to interfere with this
investigation and department investigations," Gonzales
told the panel.
Goodling said for the first time Wednesday that
Gonzales did review the story of the firings with her
at an impromptu meeting she requested in his office a
few days before she took a leave of absence.
"I was somewhat paralyzed. I was distraught, and I
felt like I wanted to make a transfer," Goodling
recalled during a packed hearing of the House
Gonzales, she said, indicated he would think about
"He then proceeded to say, 'Let me tell you what I can
remember,' and he laid out for me his general
recollection ... of some of the process" of the
firings, Goodling added. When Gonzales finished, "he
asked me if I had any reaction to his iteration."
Goodling said the conversation made her uncomfortable
because she was aware that she, Gonzales and others
would be called by Congress to testify.
"Was the attorney general trying to shake your
recollection?" asked Rep. Artur Davis (news, bio,
voting record), D-Ala.
"I just did not know if it was a conversation we
should be having and so I just didn't say anything,"
"It certainly has the flavor of trying to get their
stories straight," said Rep. Adam Schiff (news, bio,
voting record), D-Calif., a member of the committee.
Earlier Wednesday, Goodling acknowledged that she had
given too much consideration to whether candidates for
jobs as career prosecutors were Republicans or
"You crossed the line on civil service laws, is that
right?" asked Rep. Bobby Scott (news, bio, voting
"I believe I crossed the lines," Goodling replied.
"But I didn't mean to."
She said she had limited involvement in the firings
and offered the panel's Democrats nothing new in their
probe of whether
President Bush's top political and legal aides chose
which prosecutors to dismiss.
Goodling said she never talked to Karl Rove, Bush's
political adviser, nor Harriet Miers, then the
president's White House counsel, about the firings.
She said Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle
Sampson, drew up the list of those to be dismissed but
she didn't know how names got on it.
She testified that McNulty, the department's highest
official after Gonzales, knew more than he admitted to
congressional investigators about the extent of White
House involvement in the firings of eight federal
prosecutors. She said McNulty falsely accused her of
withholding key details before he spoke to
McNulty's explanation about the dismissals during his
Feb. 6 Senate testimony, "was incomplete or inaccurate
in a number of respects," Goodling said. "I believe
the deputy was not fully candid."
McNulty told senators during the hearing Feb. 6 that
the decision to fire the U.S. attorneys in December
was made solely by the Justice Department.
He and another top Justice official, William
Moschella, say Goodling and Sampson withheld crucial
information from them as they prepared their
"The allegation is false," she told the panel. "I
didn't withhold information from the deputy."
McNulty retorted in a statement that his own testimony
had been truthful "based on "what I knew at that
"Ms. Goodling's characterization of my testimony is
wrong and not supported by the extensive record of
documents and testimony already provided to Congress,"
McNulty had told investigators that while he was aware
of complaints about specific prosecutors, he did not
become aware of Sampson's plan to fire multiple U.S.
attorneys until October last year.
Gonzales' resignation is being demanded by Democrats
and some Republicans in part over the firings. Bush is
standing by his longtime friend, but Democrats have
pressed ahead with their probe, contending the firings
may have been an attempt to exploit a loophole in the
Patriot Act to install GOP loyalists as prosecutors
without Senate confirmation.
Gonzales has denied that. But the furor has been
costly nonetheless Goodling and Sampson have
resigned over it. McNulty, too, is leaving later this
year. And many lawmakers who have not directly
demanded Gonzales' resignation say he has lost their
After resigning, Goodling refused to testify, citing
her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
She then disappeared from public view, surfacing only
Wednesday at the hearing.
Conyers won court approval to have her testify under a
grant of immunity from prosecution. Upon her receiving
the grant at the start of the hearing and being sworn
in, her lawyer, John Dowd, handed thousands of
documents over to the committee.
It is known that Goodling attended numerous meetings
over a year's time about the plans to fire the U.S.
attorneys and exchanged e-mails with the White House
and at least one of the prosecutors before the
dismissals were ordered. A former colleague, Associate
Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, told
congressional investigators this month that Goodling
broke down in his office March 8 as majority Democrats
in Congress prepared to call Justice Department
officials to testify amid the emerging controversy.
Goodling said Wednesday she played a limited role in
the firings and regretted the way they were carried
out. She also disputed public descriptions of her as a
controlling manager prone to emotional outbursts.
"The person I read about on the Internet and in the
newspaper is not me," she said.