Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Goodling Goes to Capitol Hill

Monica Goodling will appear before the House Judiciary Committee on May 23 and, after receiving a grant of use/fruits immunity, testify about her role in the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006.  Goodling served as the White House Liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales until resigning in March 2007, shortly after she refused to testify by asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege.  There is a continuing squabble between Goodling and Committee chairman John Conyers over her production of documents.  The Department of Justice has provided a number of e-mails to and from Goodling to the Committee, but some have been redacted because they contain sensitive information.  One document (here) is a blank page other than the e-mail address and subject line ("McKay and Margolis").  Conyers has demanded that Goodling provide the entire text of the communications.  According to a story in The Hill (here), Goodling's attorney, John Dowd, has responded that she will not provide the unredacted versions because of DoJ regulations.  This may portend a testy beginning to her appearance, and I suspect she is unlikely to provide much if any fodder about the firings for those looking to pressure Gonzales to resign, at least not intentionally.

The e-mail traffic does not contain anything particularly explosive, although one communication did catch my eye for its use of quotation marks (think Dr. Evil).  An e-mail (on page 22 here) from Christopher Oprison in the White House Counsel's office to Goodling on February 26, 2007, states, "I need to chat about the 'performance evaluations' for the departing U.S. Attorneys.  Time sensitive issue for Tony. Thanks."  I suspect "Tony" is White House spokesman Tony Snow, and the request came as the controversy over the firings heated up.  An interesting question is why Oprison put "performance evaluations" in quotes,  Was Oprison asking for the cover story for the firings, or at least the spin that would be dispensed on the issue?  Recall that around this time the Attorney General dismissed questions about the firings as an "overblown personnel matter" and the original reason given by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was that seven of the eight were asked to resign for "performance" reasons, a position the Department of Justice subsequently backed away from.  Finally, why is someone in the White House Counsel's office -- having worked under Harriet Miers, mentioned as having some role in the firings -- asking for the information for the press office?  As always, each batch of e-mails brings new stories to think about.  (ph)

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