Missing Their Chance With Monica

I do not necessarily blame Monica Goodling for such a lackluster day of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. She was as forthcoming as she needed to be given the circumstances. Instead, I blame the Democratic members of the committee, who with their unfocused questions and lack of follow-up made their counterparts in the Senate look like a pack of Perry Masons.

First, who is the Einstein who decided that the lawmakers would get only five minutes each to ask their questions? It devolved into a farce. By the time Goodling was getting to the meat of her answers, or by the time that the politician-questioner had finished with his or her run-up to a good question, time was up. ("You have five seconds left," said Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) over and over again without any apparent sense of irony.) Goodling was off the hot seat until the next lawmaker took a turn.

The committee would have been better off simply allotting a certain amount of time to the Democrats and a certain amount of time to the Republicans and then allowing committee leaders of both parties to divvy it up. That way, Goodling could have been examined at length and in depth without interruption.

Even as it was, though, Democratic lawmakers failed to ask important follow-up questions -- about the role the White House played in the firings, about the level of involvement Gonzales had, about the poisoned environment within the Justice Department. They seemed to get all giddy over the fact that Goodling had confessed to politicizing the department -- duh -- but lost sight of their mission to have Goodling tell the world something it didn't already know. It was a missed opportunity; a blown chance to really get to the bottom of things. And that unfortunately means that this sorry saga will be with us for a while longer.

It's a saga that does not reflect well on Gonzales. He is the attorney general of the United States -- the nation's top lawyer and law enforcement official -- and while he's saying publicly that he doesn't want to compromise the investigation into last year's prosecutor purge at the Justice Department by reviewing official records, at the very same time he is creeping out Goodling, now a former Justice Department official, by offering to her his recollection of the key events and then trying to see if his memory matches hers -- to the point where Goodling, a zealous and "loyal Bushie" to the bitter end, felt "uncomfortable."

How's that for leadership and integrity? We now have Tommy Flanagan, Jon Lovitz' character from "Saturday Night Live" running the Justice Department: "Yeah, yeah, that's it. We'll tell them that Kyle Sampson wrote the list. Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket."

By merely telling the story, Goodling transformed herself Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee from overmatched partisan into sensible lawyer -- she's the one, she told the panel, who knew it wasn't appropriate for potential Congressional witnesses to be meeting beforehand to get their stories straight. Of course, we now also know that she wasn't always sensible -- that she broke the spirit if not the letter of the law when she asked political questions of non-political job candidates at the department.

But Goodling looks better today than she did on Tuesday, and her supervisors at Justice, especially Gonzales and his soon-to-be-former deputy, Paul J. McNulty, look decidedly worse. Gonzales looks like even slimier than before -- hiding behind the "I didn't review documents" dodge so he could say "I can't remember" scores of times before Congress while he was in fact trying to coordinate his testimony. And McNulty probably ought to consider lawyering up for the new round of questions that surely will come in the wake of Goodling's accusations.

Moreover, and most important, we still apparently are no closer to getting the single most important answers we need in this story: who drew up the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired and what role did the White House and the attorney general play in making it so. Jeffrey Toobin, the CNN legal analyst and New Yorker columnist, said it best: the list of fired prosecutors is the result of an "Immaculate Conception" since no one now wants to take credit for it.

By Andrew Cohen |  May 24, 2007; 8:00 AM ET agag
Previous: Goodling Trashes McNulty; Mum on Gonzales | Next: Pick an Angle, Any Angle, on the U.S. Attorney Mess


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Three key observations from David Iglesias yesterday on the Post Q&A:

1. Iglesias took from Monica's testimony that McNulty was "appropriately briefed."

2. If the list wasn't made at DOJ, it was made at the White House.

3. The truth would best be served here if Rove and Miers were to testify under oath.

I promise not to call Monica "Frankie Pantangeli" any more.

Posted by: ExAUSA | May 24, 2007 10:07 AM

Absolutely true! I found myself listening to the questions asked (or not asked) yesterday and wondering, time and again "Aren't most of these guys lawyers?".

At the end of the day, this hearing was a waste of the American people's time. Not because Ms. Goodling shouldn't have been there - she should have. But our representatives should be attempting to ACCOMPLISH something with these hearings.

We deserve better.

Posted by: John D in Houston | May 24, 2007 10:45 AM

I've had enough. And regardless of what Tony Snow tells the press corp at the daily White House press gaggles, so have the majority of the American people. We are not behind this President. We do not trust him nor the members of his administration any longer. The American people are an intelligent bunch. The president and his cronies need to stop writing us off as a bunch of uniformed idiots. With their actions, they are virtually ensuring that a Democrat, and most probably Hilary Clinton, will be the next President of the united states. That's "just desserts" for the Republican party and their leaders after their arrogance for the last 8 years.

Posted by: Sarah | May 24, 2007 11:01 AM

I've had enough. And regardless of what Tony Snow tells the press corp at the daily White House press gaggles, so have the majority of the American people. We are not behind this President. We do not trust him nor the members of his administration any longer. The American people are an intelligent bunch. The president and his cronies need to stop writing us off as a bunch of uniformed idiots. With their actions, they are virtually ensuring that a Democrat, and most probably Hilary Clinton, will be the next President of the united states. That's "just desserts" for the Republican party and their leaders after their arrogance for the last 8 years.

Posted by: Sarah | May 24, 2007 11:01 AM

Yeah, Cohen, for once I'll agree with something you say (since nothing else you've said has been right)-McNulty really ought to consider "lawyering up" for his next round-as I said about a week ago, Chiaramente would LOVE TO SEE MCNULTY READ HIS MIRANDA WARNINGS.

Those who knowingly do great evil to others, generally get it back in return.

Posted by: chiaramente | May 24, 2007 11:15 AM

What happened at the hearing is the same thing that happens when the TV camera pans the crowd at a baseball game -- ordinary people become complete jackasses when they are on TV. It was as if the whole Congressional line up could say nothing other than "Hi Mom! I'm on TV!" With a few notable exceptions, of course.

We are still stuck with a drippy faucet with little drops of salacious information coming out. When does the flood start? I don't know, but you should start watching the hem lines on Karl Rove's pants for clues.

Posted by: JB | May 24, 2007 11:35 AM

Goodling said that after a public school education she chose Christian schools for higher education becuase of their emphasis on public service.

If this is the public service which Christian schools emphasize, God Help Us!

Posted by: DC | May 24, 2007 11:40 AM

Andrew, while I agree that the testimony lacked the "explosiveness" of the Senate testimony, I disagree that nothing of substance was gleamed. The "Rules" of this game are subtle and require a closer look at what they were trying to accomplish. She basically accused McNulty of perjuring himself, Gonzales of tampering with witness testimony and has opened the door to bringing them back for more direct lines of questioning. Watergate did not happen overnight. One step at a time.

Posted by: yendornyc | May 24, 2007 11:55 AM

I disagree strongly that the hearing was a complete wash.

Credit need to go where credit is due--and Rep. Scott, Davis, Schiff, and Ellison made the most out of their minutes.

Scott had a very disciplined line of questioning regarding Goodling's "crossing the legal line" in hiring decisions.

Ellison had an interesting some interesting exchanges regarding Minnesota.

Schiff helped set the table for Davis.

Davis though had a really exceptional 20 minute exchange which unleashed a few nuggets:
1. The grand-daddy of them all--that Gonzales attempted to manipulate a fact witnesses testimony. A huge no-no.
2. That Gonzales had made misrepresentations in his statements.
3. That Goodling never brought the misstatements issue up with either Gonzales or McNulty--which raises the question: "If the theme of today's witness testimony is McNulty lied; why focus on just that ONE person, when you by your own acknowledgement assert that another, more senior officer made even more serious misrepresentations?"
4. Davis had another line about the U.S. Attorney handbook and Goodling admitted time and again that she "wasn't an expert".
Well, if she wasn't an "expert"; if she didn't even have really a 200 level understand, then what the h-ll was she doing evaluating these U.S. Attorneys? What kind of absentee, irresponsible boss would even put someone like this in such an important position?

In broad outlines some of these details are not new. But these details do matter. Rep. Davis who ended up being the second-to-last interlocutor deserve special mention though--as do the colleagues who put egos aside and ceeded floor time to him so that he could finish his line of questioning.

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 12:06 PM

The House Judiciary committee sure wasted a grant of immunity for Goodling. Now she can take the entire rap for considering partisan politics in hiring. The other guys will say it was Monica's idea, ask Monica.

If she hadn't been given immunity, prosecutors could have leaned on her to give up those that authorized her to consider partisan leanings of applicants.

Regardless of her hokey law school, Ms. Goodling seems to understand how the law works better than most of Gonzales's henchmen.

Posted by: Louise Fletcher | May 24, 2007 12:11 PM

Conyers pissed me off for constantly interrupting Goodling in order to tell the congress member that their time was up.

I understand he was trying to keep to the rules, but he is under no obligation to announce the time when the WITNESS is talking!

It drove me crazy.

Also, I wish someone had done more questioning on the Griffin CAGING issue.

Posted by: kimoco | May 24, 2007 12:35 PM


I agree with assessment. I have only seen snippits of the transcript, however. Between work (really buried right now) and watching/coaching various sports events with my kids, I didn't get much of a chance to bone up on her testimony. What did you find so interesting about the Minnesota situation? I am especially curious for a couple of reasons -- I lived in St. Paul for many years before moving East and I used to work -- pre-law school -- at the former law firm of the current USA (also the firm of former V.P. Fritz Mondale and former firm of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar).

Posted by: Nellie | May 24, 2007 12:55 PM

Nellie, Ellison highlighted a few issues:
1. Former USA Hefflinger's association with Indian tribes; Hefflinger stance on voting eligibility of the tribes (a stance that seemed to be at odds with main DOJ).
--Goodling acknowledged that these were considerations in his being placed on a "to be removed" list.
2. He contrasted the resume of a very experienced aUSA, locally based prosecutor, who was apparently "too liberal" for Goodling as a potential Hefflinger replacement with the eventual replacement Rachel Paulose.

The tribes angle is one that I would probably need more local context to understand, but Ellison's line of questioning on this raised some questions in my mind. e.g. Are tribes more prone to support Democratic candidates?

Ellison also asked a question about whether religious preferences entered into removal/hiring considerations--which Goodling, of course, denied.

Overall I thought Ellison did a good job of highlighting the extreme political bias of the hiring and firing process--where ideology and age were about 90% of the evaluation criteria, and then professional experience counted for about 10%.

My personal take on this:
In Paulose's case, she looks like she probably would have a very good resume for an AUSA position, but she had absolutely no business being appointed to a leadership position at this stage in her career. Recent events inside her office would seem to support this line of thinking.

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 01:19 PM

This is bizarre: she gets away with saying that she may have "crossed the line" (and this is treated as a great revelation) considering political affiliation, based on a list which none of the powers-that- be claim any knowledge where it came from (and yet no problem signing off on dismissing names which no one admits to know where come from), and the latter fact is just accepted contentedly! Was this an orchestrated farce? We already know what the Democrats decided on the war funding bill. I suppose they (maybe thinking they are so savvy)don't want to press hard here after having made the big decision to back away from their hot-air pronouncements about the war funding . GW got his way by yet again pretending as if no other alternative to his desire exists! What did he even concede to?

It makes me wonder if the direction for about face came from the Democrat contenders (and I personally really have ABSOLUTELY NO desire for Hillary or Obama to win,even if the Republican candidate is bad) or otherwise was a sham (tokenism to placate the masses, with no real intention) all along.
Looks like such a joke!

Posted by: Jackson | May 24, 2007 01:34 PM

Although I am on much the same side with Andrew, note many of the same points, and am no fan at all of Gonzalez, I don't think the above weight on the conversation between Goodling and Gonzalez to show the AG's lack of integrity is very strong.
That the AG was "creeping her out... to the point..where she felt 'uncomfortable'" with the implication that it must have been REALLY bad for G, a loyal Bush supporter to the bitter end, with her sensitive and presupposedly infallible female antennae somehow picking up the invisible and symbolic vibrations of impending iniquity , to have felt "uncomfortable", isn't at all warranted by the conversation to which she testified, and which she brought up.
The conversation she testified to wasn't anywhere so bad that only a Bush supporter to the bitter end could have felt uncomfortable; what she said she felt uneasy about a conversation that she herself brought up, was that they were even talking about it, and she denied that she felt he was trying to influence her.

If her impressions of a conversation which she brought up on her own are to be given any substantive weight at all, her verbal description in this instance is all one has to go by, and in that verbal description she denied the psychological inference of her intent that was made above.

But, yeah, I'm in otherwise sympathy with your viewpoint and points.

Posted by: Anton | May 24, 2007 02:03 PM

Jp2: Good points I think. It would have been sad if the reason other congresspeople had not ceded their time was due to their egos. That would not reflect well on what the spirit of our government is supposed to be.

Posted by: Lon | May 24, 2007 02:10 PM

Oh, here we go again-Gonzales, by NO measure, was "coaching" Monica's testimony-geez! I'm no fan of Gonzales, but really, give me a break!

Does anyone understand what that term "coaching" REALLY means? When you "prep" a witness, that's coaching, and guess WHAT-THAT'S PERFECTLY OKAY! Oh, I KNOW what sanctimonious law professors say to the contrary (those who have never litigated) but that's what it boils down to, you can go over material with them, you can run through practice sessions of questions and answers, you can suggest ways to ANSWER INFORMATION THAT THEY ALREADY KNOW.

But of course, if you're looking for a hook of some type, and you have journalists who don't know a damn thing about the subject matter of witness "coaching" and witness "prepping" then you have the accusations that go flying, so Gonzales is talking to Monica about what he recalls, just in conversation, and that automatically becomes "coaching." Sheesh! What idiocy!

Really, Monica was laying it on a little thick-again, a "distraction" measure from her very REAL problem of violation of federal law for using political preference or political affiliation in hiring practices! Geez Louise, has nobody SEEN THAT?? I was, as the Brits like to say, GOBSMACKED at her admissions on that subject!

But give credit to her lawyers here, they "coached" her well! (smile)

Journalists acting as lawyers, and wannabee litigators and lawyers opining on subjects they THINK they understand perfectly-yeah, thanks but no thanks! If you want to actually KNOW about these issues, then go to law school and actually DO litigation, okay?

Posted by: chiaramente | May 24, 2007 02:15 PM

Chiaramente, in reference to the coaching "technique" I remember that not working particularly well in the Scooter-Libby case; or with the Moussaoui prosecution.

If you're a fact witness, don't talk about the case, or try to influence another witness. This is even more reprehensible if you are a supervisor, and your subordinate comes in asking about a potential reassignment.

Gonzales was effectively saying: "You want a reassignment little girl, OK, well first, let's make sure that you get your story right. If you get your story right, then maybe we can talk about your new position. How does that sound little girl?"

Under what part of the legal code of ethics would this kind of behavior be appropriate? What part of the criminal code would condone this activity?

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 03:26 PM

Jp2- Re the Moussaoui prosecution-what was expressed in those emails by the attorney to the witnesses was no more "coaching" than my ass was "coaching," -if by coaching, we mean telling the witnesses SOMETHING THEY DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW.

As many former prosecutors said, in their blogs (the real ones, the ones who actually DO litigation for a living, that is!) they couldn't see that it was anything other than ordinary witness preparation, (nor could I, for that matter). And here's the kicker, (because you see, yours truly actually READ the transcript which 99.9 people expressing an opinion on the subject did NOT do-shock shock!) the witnesses THEMSELVES testified that it was all information they already knew, they were clearly experts in this area, and that they had already testified to this information in other forums "ad infinitum" said the one witness C. Manno.

But again, journalists, and law school professors, and the great all-knowing (yeah, right!) legal pundits-instead of doing just a leeetle critical analysis, or actually going through the transcript and reading WHAT WAS ACTUALLY TESTIFIED TO BY THE WITNESSES, just picked up on what was said, as if what the defense was saying was the last word on the subject (or even the stupid judge!)

Yeah, GOOD example there-go read Mauet's Trial Advocacy book, if you don't believe me.


Posted by: chiaramente | May 24, 2007 06:26 PM


My experience with Native Americans is that they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. It is very complicated, though, because tribal dynamics can push things around quite a bit. Issues of sovereignty, treaty rights and corruption in the tribal governments are wild cards. The casino money has made the situation worse in some tribes and better in others, but further complicates the equation. But still mostly Democrats.

I'll have to ask some of my friends in Minneapolis about Polouse. She sounds like a real piece of work.

Posted by: Nellie | May 24, 2007 06:30 PM

I mis-posted this earlier to an old thread. I think it interesting so here it is again. For a reader used to picking at nits these stands out like some big engorged ticks.

From Goodlings statement

"In truth I can not say with absolute certainty that I know why Kevin Ryan, John McKay, Carol Lam, David Bogden, David Iglesis, and Margaret Chiara were sked to sesign in December 2006. I can describe what I and others discussed as the reasons for their removal, but I cannot guarantee that these reasons are the same as those contemplated by the FINAL DECISIONMAKERS who requested the resignations of these U.S. Attorneys. I am not aware, however, of anyone WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT ever suggesting the replacement of these attorneys in order to interfere with a particular case, or in retaliation for prosecuting or refusing to prosecute a particular case, FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE.

Emphasis added. Seems like very careful drafting. What implications do you get?

Posted by: wrb | May 24, 2007 06:53 PM

wrb: (engorged nits doesn't sound at all pleasant)
Who are these "final decisionmakers" who might have had different reasons , if Goodling was in charge and discussed the reasons for their removal?

"Within the department" does seem like a loophole.
Aren't people, especially officials with real power, at all accountable for obvious intent, or are they allowed to hide behind equally clearly disingenuous wording?

Posted by: Douglas | May 24, 2007 07:43 PM

Chiaramente, at what point in this process did Gonzales sign up as Goodling's counsel?

And on what basis would it ever be appropriate for one fact witness to discuss his recollections of events with another fact witness--especially in the case where the other witness happens to be his subordinate who has just raised questions about getting a job in another division?

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 07:48 PM

Ch is surprised that no one had noticed that Monica admitted to using political affiliation in hiring. What do you mean?
That's obvious, that's common knowledge, I thought. But she talked as if did it on her own, or who directed it is unknown?!

Posted by: Red | May 24, 2007 07:54 PM

WRB: The testimony you quote suggests that (1) there was more than one "final decisionmaker," and (2) the final decisionmakers were not "within the Department." Let's see, if not within the Department of Justice, where could those "final decisionmakers" be found? And why is Ms. Goodling not able to assure the country that the reasons for termination discussed "within the DOJ" were the "real reasons" for the terminations? Sounds like after-thoughts, makeweights, pretexts to me.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | May 24, 2007 08:01 PM

I add that

"for political advantage" seems like an out based on her obvious inability to read the minds of those doing it. Maybe Madam Blavatski told them to, and the spirit world thumps twice to confirm. Who is to know?

Posted by: wrb | May 24, 2007 08:13 PM

I add that

"for political advantage" seems like an out based on her obvious inability to read the minds of those doing it. Maybe Madam Blavatski told them to, and the spirit world thumps twice to confirm. Who is to know?

Posted by: wrb | May 24, 2007 08:13 PM

sorry Jp2-I'm not going to play this stupid game of yours-Gonzales WASN'T A FACT WITNESS, THIS ISN'T A TRIAL, THERE'S NO RULE ON WITNESSES IN EFFECT, AND SO WHAT if he is her boss, and she would like to go for a transfer, what's that got to do with the price of beans-sheesh! Talk about silly nit-picking!

Let's go back to the Moussaoui prosecution again-it seems ONE of the prosecutors interviewed his 2 FBI witnesses together, and he interviewed some of the civilian witnesses together as well, and then he spoke fast and furious to the judge about why he felt that was acceptable! (didn't hear about that, did ya?)

Now THAT latter situation is wholly different in kind from the Gonzales/Monica situation--because there WAS a Rule on Witnesses in effect-and the prosecutor STILL interviewed the two FBI FACT witnesses together-a big NO-NO, BUT, the judge forgave HIM, said not to do it again, or something stupid like that (that's why I mean she-Brinkema-was so inconsistent in her rulings-really astonishingly so!)

Big difference here-Gonzales and Goodling are not two "fact" witnesses in a trial-nor are they in a situation where there is a "rule on witnesses" in effect (which has to be issued, to be in effect, and it is not issued all the time, anyway).

For God's sake, Gonzales was just TALKING TO HER ABOUT WHAT HE RECOLLECTED-and her attorneys are/were trying to slant that, cleverly, to deflect from her clear violation of federal law-by making it seem that HE was doing something improper, and he was NOT.

But now, I guess everyone can't figure this out: MCNULTY IN TROUBLE, BIG TROUBLE. "cuz He WAS the final decisionmaker" and he DID state under oath that the attorneys were fired for "performance based reasons" when clearly, their performances were NOT the issue, and he is the DAG-the buck stops with him.

Like I said, Miranda warnings should be given to him before he testifies again-and it couldn't happen to a more worthy individual (smile)

Posted by: chiaramente | May 24, 2007 08:17 PM


"cuz He WAS the final decisionmaker"

re McNulty.

You don't really believe that, do you?

For the sake of argument, lets grant that McNulty is the worst smelling fish yet dragged up.

Is he not none-the-less a small fish, to be grilled on a side fire, one you will savor, but otherwise a distraction.

If not, why not?

What about his actions rise to the level of the attempted coup d'etat that seems to be the center of this thing

Posted by: wrb | May 24, 2007 09:19 PM

Chiaramente, Gonzales by his own admission IS a "fact witness." Those are his own words. Re-read his testimony from his hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee.


"CONYERS: OK. In other words, you don't know. And I'm not putting words in your mouth, but you haven't answered the question.

I know the procedure, but look, we've got 30-something members of Congress, much of your staff, you've prepared for this, you've been asked something like this question before now...

GONZALES: Mr. Chairman, if I may respond to that, as I've indicated, I have not gone back and spoken directly with Mr. Sampson and others who are involved in this process, in order to protect the integrity of this investigation and the investigation of the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of Inspector General.

I am a fact witness, they are fact witnesses and in order to preserve the integrity of those investigations, I have not asked these specific questions. What I'm here today..."

But these are just details, right Chiaramente?

You say "not a fact witness," Gonzales by his own admission says "I am a fact witness."

Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe, eh?

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 09:27 PM

1. Yes, I really DO believe that-in fact, I KNOW that-I've been saying it for weeks, and Goodling did in fact confirm it-sorry to disappoint you, but McNulty is a liar and concealer of information, and the DAG is the nuts and bolts of the operation-he is the one that was making the decisions that Gonzales signed off on, because he was the point man for the US Attorneys, since he was a sorry US Attorney no-nothing himself!

2. (sigh) this is painful..... I'm not going to waste any more time talking about this-this is not a trial, there is nothing that says Gonzales can't talk to her about what he remembers, that is not (god!) COACHING.

Yes, Gonzales was a fact witness WHEN HE TESTIFIED A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, JP2, okay?. His conversation with Goodling however was quite some time ago, riiiight? right. At least two months ago, because she's been gone since March, don't you remember? okay? Got it figured it out now mr. wannabee lawyer? Not the same situation AT ALL.

Geez-you people read too many wannabee lawyer blogs!

Posted by: chiaramente | May 24, 2007 10:03 PM

The democratic members of the committee missed their chance with Monica because some were too busy trying out their cell phone cameras when she entered the room.

We did not turn over control over Congress just so the democrats can act like a bunch of 16 yrs olds with a new toy.

Posted by: Jawja | May 24, 2007 10:14 PM

Thanks for the parsing Chiaramente--in one fell-swoop you have redeemed the Regent U. law program.

Another potential very large, and shady angle developing in this story concerns the Native American Subcommittee. Apparently 5 of the 8 fired USAs + the former USA from Minnesota were on this committee. Among the new appointees was a former Greenberg Traurig attorney. Abramoff anyone?


Hopefully a skilled reporter can follow-up on these leads and earn a well deserved Pulitzer.

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 10:35 PM

Nellie, you might appreciate this home state angle. Man this one stinks.

More background on the Heffelfinger, the former Minnesota USA, (as posted by another commentator elsewhere):

"It is interesting that the last Representative to Question, Keith Ellison of the MN 5th District, was the one to ask the Heffelfinger questions. He asked two -- one was about the "too much time on Native American issues" and the other was whether Goodling had any communication with Mary Kiffmeyer, former Secretary of State in Minnesota. Both questions have good back stories.

In 2005, Mary Kiffmeyer forced a law suit into state court regarding rules for what kind of ID had to be presented at the polls. She did not win her case, and there was no strong interest in actually making it on the part of Mike Hatch, then state AG, who is a DFL'er. But What Kiffmeyer was attempting to do was challenge the state registeration laws using the Help America Vote legislation -- essentially she wanted to argue that our state law had been trumped by the Federal Law.

Now Minnesota makes is easy for people to vote -- we have same day registeration at the polls. Since we passed this law in 1973, we have had no fraud problems -- we are always first of second in the US in terms of turn out of elegiable voters, and 40% of Minnesotans over the years have used the same day provisions to vote. Kiffmeyer wanted to challenge this with the HAV laws, and most important, she wanted to challenge college students using the provisions to register and vote from their college residences. Kiffmeyer made major efforts in DC at DOJ to force Heffelfinger to join her suit, and he refused, seeing no grounds for any challenge of our system.

What Ellison needs to do now is write follow up questions asking for all communications on this matter between Goodling, or anyone in Main Justice and Kiffmeyer. Likewise -- any DOJ communication with Heffelfinger. This is not exactly caging -- but it is yet another effort to carve out a part of the electorate, and refuse them the right to cast a ballot.

By the way, Mary Kiffmeyer was defeated in the last election. We now have a DFL Secretary of State. Her defeat was largely over this issue. Anyhow, Ellison needs to get Conyers to request or subpoena all the correspondance about this matter from DOJ.

Now the Native American back-story. There are three sub-matters which did or could have involved Heffelfinger. Most well know, The Red Lake School Shooting. While only one student was responsible for the shootings, there apparently were several others who knew Weiss's thinking before the fact. One of these was the son of the Tribal Chief, who was arrested and ultimately tried in Duluth, but tried as a youth offender, with the trial behind closed doors, and the evidence under seal. Heffelfinger was brought under huge pressure to qualify the kid as an adult and try him in public -- but he refused. The Red Lake Band was very strong that they did not want a public trial in this case as the level of awareness of the Chief's son was really quite slight. (Remember, the case involved Weiss killing his grandparents -- and his grandfather was chief of the tribal police -- the point was to kill him to get his guns so as to attack the school.) Anyhow Heffelfinger got a grand jury to investigate all the issues, and they returned a youth offender charge, and he stood solidly behind that. I think this very much might have angered some of the authoritarian types in Main Justice.

The second Native American matter which might be involved dates from 2002 -- and it is about an effort connected with Abramoff to get two tribes to fight each other over a gameing matter. Two bands of Minnesota Sioux have very successful casino operations in Eastern Minnesota, near the Twin Cities -- Mystic Lake, and Treasure Island. Both bands have fairly strong DFL connections that date back years. Wisconsin's Winnebago were propositioned by the Abramoff people to take over a bankrupt dog track on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River -- just a mile or so off the 94 interchange on the Wisconsin side -- and turn the track into a Casino in competition with the Sioux very successful operations. Eventually it was settled with the local people had a vote, and decided they didn't want a Casino in their town -- but that was only after much court effort, where Heffelfinger refused to get involved. (It was an interstate matter, with two Indian Tribes -- he clearly could have gotten involved had he wanted to do so). Anyhow it is the interest of the Abramoff gang in this that intrigues me -- and I suspect not doing what Abramoff wanted in 2002 might have been a black-mark against Heffelfinger. Again -- let's see if there are any records.

The third issue is much less direct -- it was about Rove pushing money through Norm Coleman's campaign in 2002 to support the Green Party Native American Candidate in the Wellstone-Coleman race in 2002. (The Greens ultimately settled this by defeating their own candidate in the September 2002 primary). But it was hot news in the summer of 2002 that Rove was spending money through Coleman to support someone who might fool progressives, and take votes away from Wellstone. At the time it was a big issue, Heffelfinger did comment that he might investigate the matter of Coleman's campaign funds being used for two candidates and two parties -- but it never went beyond that. Again, that probably alienated Rove who was shoveling in the campaign cash.

For those who don't know who Heffelfinger is, I would suggest a little research. On one level he is the Nephew of the 1940 GOP Candidate for President, Wendell Wilkie. His first Cousin, Wendell Wilkie IV was a high level administrator in the DOJ during Bush I -- and worked in Bush II's DOJ during the first two years. The Heffelfinger Family itself is Old Minnesota -- I suppose it is three or four greats, but Chris Heffelfinger was one of the leading officers in the Minnesota First that quite literally saved the Union on the day before Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, when he led the Minnesota First to confront five confederate regiments at the Wheat Field, allowing Hancock a window to bring up reserves. The Minnesota First suffered 88% casualities in that operation.

Anyhow -- that's what Goodling wrote off so casually yesterday...a Republican line that runs back through Wilkie and further back to one of Lincoln's more adept officers. Their noses need to be rubbed into all this the way you teach a little pup not to poop in the house."

Posted by: JP2 | May 24, 2007 11:30 PM

These hearings are just for show anyway to try to create the appearance of "oversight." The very last thing the Dems want is to upset the status quo. They really don't care what Gonzales & Co. have been up to, they don't care about their constitutents, and democracy is just a word to them. As long as they're allowed to line up, grunting and snorting, at the lobbyist and big corporate feeding trough, they're a very happy bunch of piggies.

Posted by: Helena Montana | May 25, 2007 04:56 AM

Do you work at the MN Historical Society or something? Quite a recitation.

Norm Coleman is pond scum. I voted against him in the DFL St. Paul Mayoral primary and held my nose voting for him in the general election, in large part because the no-longer-independant Republican candidate was a knuckle-dragger. Then he jumped parties. His scruples have only deteriorated since then.

Hey, Helena. Take your Rush-Hannity talking points and puke them up on Last Chance Gulch. If you want to bring a different perspective to the discussion here, then do it with reason and back it up with facts.

Posted by: Nellie | May 25, 2007 09:03 AM

The quote was from another blog, so that's someone else's recollection--not mine (I used quotes). The statement rings true though, and I'm sure that the details can be fact-checked. The writer has some local perspective on this, which provides the kind of background that would probably take an outsider a long time to figure out.

Helena, MT, come on. So it was the Democrats who were praising Gonzales and Goodling in the House Judiciary Committee? It was the Republicans who have been subpoenaing documents in the House? Thanks for the barrel of laughs!

Posted by: JP2 | May 25, 2007 09:17 AM

"I'm not going to waste any more time talking about this-this is not a trial, there is nothing that says Gonzales can't talk to her about what he remembers, that is not (god!) COACHING." - chiaramente

Don't be so self-righteous.

This was not his secretary refreshing his memory. The and AG were major participants in the entire process. Goodling suspected that it could be an attempt by the AG to coordinate stories if it came to testifying under oath. Which is why she said NOTHING.

Othwerwise, it could have been the beginning of a "conspiracy."

Goodling saying NOTHING prevented her from being a party to that, if indeed the AG was indirectly attemping to coordinate possible testimony under oath.

Posted by: | May 25, 2007 11:22 AM

In fairness, I don't get the idea that Helena's statements are Rush/Hannity-like or anti-Democrat at all, but to the contrary, disappointed with the majority of Democrats not following through enough. She (assuming) may have just said her impressions without presenting the explicit facts, but it looks to me that what she is saying (as a general statement on the Democrat "leadership") has been otherwise said pertaining to the Gonzalez matter (including in Andrew's article, whatever points with which one might disagree) , as well as the most pertinent issue of the war funding bill, where such prominent voices as Feingold were far from alone in condemning the result (something like "Democrats chose the side of comfort") which is saying something pretty close to what Helena M above was saying.

Posted by: Trevor | May 25, 2007 12:51 PM

Chiaramente, I gather you have something against Mcnulty, rightly or otherwise, but if Mcnulty is supposed to be THE DECISIONMAKER (even though Monica's testimony which is the only place that mentions decisionmakers, explicitly uses plural), are you saying he just came up with the list entirely on his own initiative, and no one else, AG, the White House knew or directed anything? and is he the highest up so as to have the presumption to do such a thing unilaterally?

Posted by: James B. | May 25, 2007 01:02 PM

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