Goodling Trashes McNulty; Mum on Gonzales
Monica Goodling is hours into her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and if you didn't know the background of the U.S. attorney scandal you would be forgiven for believing that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales runs the Justice Department in absentia from a deserted island through the use of carrier pigeons and haiku. Goodling has barely mentioned her former boss and has barely been asked by lawmakers about the attorney general's involvement in the prosecutor purge or his failed leadership of the department. Maybe that's going to come after lunch -- maybe the committee wants to end with a bang and not a whimper -- but it is a surprise that it has not taken place so far. After all, Gonzales clearly is the most important figure in this story, and someone about whom Goodling ought to be able to talk at great length and with florid detail. So far, though, at least as far as Gonzales is concerned, virtually nothing of note.
Another surprise, perhaps, is that Goodling was so quick to turn on another one of her former bosses, soon-to-be-former Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. If there is one clear loser following the morning's testimony by Goodling -- if there is one person whose got bigger legal troubles now than he did a few hours ago -- it surely is McNulty, whose honesty and candor before the Congress was directly challenged by Goodling. McNulty failed to disclose to lawmakers, Goodling now alleges, all that he knew about the White House's involvement in the plan to fire the U.S. attorneys and that failure was not Goodling's fault. This testimony is going to now force McNulty to publicly (and privately) defend himself with more vigor than he has shown before and it would not surprise me if he were to be called back to Capitol Hill for another round of questions. Perjury? Based upon Goodling's testimony It's still in play if the lawmakers (or federal prosecutors) believe that McNulty intentionally lied to Congress.
And Goodling also was quick to throw under the bus another one of her former colleagues: Kyle Sampson, the former deputy chief of staff for the attorney general. She talked about the list of prosecutors to be fired as Sampson's list -- as if he had sole ownership in it. Sampson, remember, was not so willing to take the credit for being the author of the final recommendations of U.S. attorneys to be terminated.
I don't know about you. But it is hard for me (or, apparently, any other reasonable person) to believe that such a task would be delegated solely to a deputy chief of staff and not some higher-ranking government official. In any event, Goodling's testimony makes clear that there are now huge gulfs between the stories offered by the various players involved in the scandal and that, to the extent that some of these players are still working in the Justice Department, there can be no doubt but that these discrepancies are causing conflict and chaos within the department. Maybe we should put them all on an island and play "Survivor Justice"?
I watched Goodling's performance carefully. Thankfully, I did not see her cry. Indeed, to her credit, she was sharper and more focused than many of her questioners. I didn't expect committee Republicans to throw her anything but softballs -- this is the House, remember, not the Senate -- but committee Democrats seemed all over the map with their lines of questioning. Maybe that's what you get when you have to limit the questioning to five-minute segments and the politicians use a great deal of that time to make speeches (or Goodling spends a great deal of that time filibustering through her answers).
I expect more this afternoon, and if the committee lets Goodling leave the room without asking her in depth about Gonzales it will be just another travesty upon justice in this saga.
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