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Goodling: Gonzales tried to review story

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070523/ap_on_go_co/fired_prosecutors;_ylt=AhExhSYvNqUZmZTqMNhT_Xus0NUE Goodling: Gonzales tried to review story By LAURIE KELLMAN,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 23, 2007
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      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
      congressional testimony.

      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
      be questioned.

      "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
      Judiciary Committee.

      Gonzales, she said, indicated he would think about
      Goodling's request.

      "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.

      Goodling paused.

      "I just did not know if it was a conversation we
      should be having and so I just didn't say anything,"
      she replied.

      Democrats pounced.

      "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
      record), D-Va.

      "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
      congressional testimony.

      "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,"
      he said.

      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.
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