Thursday, April 26, 2007

Goodling to Receive Immunity

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-6 to authorize a request to the U.S. District Court for an order of use immunity for Monica Goodling, the former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to permit her to testify about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.  Unlike Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who testified before the Committee, Goodling's lawyer sent a letter to the Committee that she would assert the Fifth Amendment in response to a subpoena.  Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers made a statement (here) explaining the reason why the Committee decided to proceed with an immunity order, even though it does not appear that Goodling has indicated what she will say in her testimony by way of a proffer:

[Goodling] was apparently involved in crucial discussions over a two-year period with senior White House aides, and with other senior Justice officials, in which the termination list was developed, refined, and finalized. She was also in the small group of senior Justice lawyers who prepared Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and his Principal Associate, William Moschella, for congressional testimony that we believe inaccurately portrayed the surrounding circumstances.

So Ms. Goodling appears to be a key witness for us, as to any possible undue or improper interference, and as to any internal discussions as to how forthcoming to be to Congress. But she has notified the Committee that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination were she called to testify. And I don’t think at this point that all of her potential grounds for invoking the privilege can be dismissed out of hand.

The procedure for obtaining immunity for a witness in a Congressional proceeding is governed by 18 U.S.C. Sec. 6005(b), which provides:

Section 6005(c) does provide that the Department of Justice can intervene to request a delay in granting the immunity order, for up to twenty days, on such grounds "as the Attorney General may specify."  One obvious reason to request a delay is if the immunity grant will interfere with a continuing criminal investigation, although that does not appear to be the case in this situation.  Conceivably, the Attorney General could seek to resist an immunity grant on other grounds, such as executive privilege or Congressional overreaching, which would create quite a stir at this point.
If the district court issues the use immunity order, then the next step will be to subpoena Goodling and schedule her testimony.  The House Judiciary Committee wants Gonzales to testify on May 10, and has also issued a subpoena to the Republican National Committee for information about e-mail accounts used by senior White House aides that may not have been turned over already.  Look for Goodling's testimony to come near the date of Gonzales' next Capitol Hill appearance for questioning about the firing of the U.S. Attorneys.  An AP story (here) discusses all the latest happenings in the investigation.  (ph)

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