Department of Justice

Monica Goodling 6 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgFormer Justice Department lawyer Monica Goodling has gotten a raw deal.
From the media. From the blogosphere. And now, from the DOJ itself. According to the Washington Post’s Andrew Cohen:

[B]ack at the ranch, the Justice Department managed to tick off former high-ranking official Monica Goodling and her attorneys by going public with allegations against her (allegations that she broke the law by giving out jobs based upon political affiliation) before notifying Team Goodling about the matter as a professional courtesy.

Given how vital Goodling’s testimony will be — she’s been given use immunity and will almost certainly testify before Congress about her role in the U.S. Attorney scandal — the Justice Department’s faux pas is as inexecusable as it is unsurprising. The Department is merely now doing to Goodling what Goodling and Company did to the fired prosecutors (and, for that matter, what the White House did to George Tenet when it was through with him).

We’re glad to see that someone else — namely, Andrew Cohen — realizes that Goodling is being dealt with unfairly. And we will not rest until the Magnificent Monica Goodling stands vindicated in the court of public opinion.
How An Attorney General Should Act (and Monica’s Mad) [Bench Conference / Washington Post]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgOur bestest gal pal, Monica M. Goodling, is in the news once again. From the AP (via the Volokh Conspiracy):

The Justice Department is investigating whether its former White House liaison used political affiliation in deciding who to hire as entry-level prosecutors in U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country, The Associated Press has learned.

Doing so is a violation of federal law.

The inquiry involving Monica Goodling, the former counsel and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, raises new concerns that politics might have cast a shadow over the independence of trial prosecutors who enforce U.S. laws.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed Wednesday that the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility were investigating Goodling’s role in hiring career attorneys — an unusual responsibility for her to take.

Goodling “may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review,” Boyd told the AP. “Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the OIG/OPR investigation.”

Back when Monica Goodling first invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege, a wide range of commentators, from Joshua Micah Marshall to Orin Kerr, expressed skepticism towards her claim. Questions were raised as to whether Goodling had a valid basis for declining to testify.
Gentlemen, in light of the latest news, you should be ashamed of yourselves. We think you owe Ms. Goodling an apology.
Moral of the story: Never doubt the Magnificent Monica Goodling!!!
P.S. Our favorite comment over at the VC: “God told her to.”
DOJ probes politics’ role in hiring U.S. attorneys [Associated Press]
Ex-Aide to Gonzales Accused Of Bias [Washington Post]
Monica Goodling and AUSA Hiring [Volokh Conspiracy]

Shanetta Cutlar.jpg
Two quick things:
According to the DOJ vacancies website, Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice and a two-time ATL Diva of the Day, is seeking new grist for her mill. Don’t apply for a position in her office without reading ATL’s hard-hitting coverage of this tempestuous taskmaster!
In other news, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas “Tad” DiBiase has stepped down. Readers will recall that DiBiase is “the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of high-powered D.C. legal circles,” so his resignation is making some waves. According to today’s Legal Times:

The reasons for the departure of Thomas “Tad” DiBiase, a deputy chief of the homicide division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, are still unclear. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not talk much about it, but there is plenty of speculation and contradictory accounts among police, prosecutors and defense attorneys – some of it circulating on the Internet.

You can, of course, review some of that salacious speculation in ATL’s prior coverage of the DiBiase situation. We’ll keep you updated as we hear more.

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgI’m sure Lat will have more to say about this, but I just wanted to report the facts. The vote was 32-6 (2/3 was needed). A separate vote to authorize a subpoena for Goodling passed by voice vote. This from AP via Yahoo!:

The votes instruct a House lawyer to seek an immunity grant from a federal court. The grant would not take effect unless Chairman John Conyers (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., chooses to issue Goodling a subpoena compelling her to testify, Conyers said.

Goodling and her lawyer have invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, saying they believe Democrats have set a perjury trap for her. Conyers said Wednesday he hopes Goodling changes her mind and voluntarily tells the committee her story.

“I do not propose this step lightly,” Conyers told the panel. “If we learn something new in the course of our investigation … we can always stop the process s before the court issues an order.”

Take that Bill Maher.

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gif
Apparently the one guy that counts was satisfied with Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before Congress last week. From the New York Times:

President Bush said Monday that the Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, roundly panned by members of both parties, had “increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.”
Speaking during a short question-and-answer session in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Gonzales’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer.”

Really, Prez? Because what we saw in the hearings was someone who either has the memory of a raisin or is a liar on the scale of James Frey. Either way, these are not characteristics of the ideal head of the Department of Justice.
Is the President showing the same kind of support that he showed for Donald Rumsfeld right before he was sent packing? There are some important differences, of course, in the two cases. Rumsfeld’s performance was directly related to the war in Iraq, which many perceived to be the driving issue in the November election that handed Congress to the Democrats; Gonzales, on the other hand, seems to mostly have a terrible memory and bad sense of PR when it comes to handling a situation in which many feel that nothing wrong was actually done. Also, and perhaps more importantly, there is now not very much time left in the Bush Administration; there may not therefore be the political will to force him out, replace him, and then have to replace the replacement within a fairly short period of time.
Still, not getting rid of him and making the above comments are two different things. So I say again, really President Bush?

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifToday is Friday, the favorite day of the week for high-profile government officials to announce their departures. E.g., Sandra Day O’Connor; Monica Goodling; Cully Stimson.
Might Alberto Gonzales resign as Attorney General today? We doubt it. Coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, where AGAG took a real beating, it would look too reactive. It would be much more likely for some other DOJ official — e.g., Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty — to step down late this afternoon.
But a Gonzales departure is probably more likely now than ever. Over at Slate, the needle on the “Gonzo-Meter” — which measures the chance of an Alberto Gonzales departure — has moved farther to the right. The Slate folks explain:

We are bumping the meter up to 95. It may take the attorney general a few days to recognize that he did not exactly pull off a rout. But if the president was indeed waiting for his boy to turn this thing around today, the president must have been sorely disappointed. If anything, Gonzales probably lost support today. And if he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we’ll eat our meter.

Time for an ATL reader poll:


Gonzo-Meter: Al, You’re Not Helping [Slate]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Alberto R Gonzales Attorney General Above the Law blog.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales made a make-or-break appearance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We covered his SJC testimony extensively. See here, here, and here.
If the Gonzales testimony were a Broadway show, today would be the morning after opening night, when the all-powerful Ben Brantley theatre critics weigh in. And based on the reviews (see links below), the Al Gonzales Show is the biggest disaster since Dracula the Musical. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of AGAG’s tenure?
As you know, we love drama, and we love surprises. We were secretly hoping that Gonzales — who has never been a great public speaker (we’ve seen him) — would deliver a bravura performance, one that would resurrect his career, leaving his critics stunned and speechless. We were looking for a home run, a tour de force like Clarence Thomas’s Senate testimony, as described by Camille Paglia:

Make no mistake: it was not a White House conspiracy that saved this nomination. It was Clarence Thomas himself. After eight hours of Hill’s testimony, he was driven as low as any man could be. But step by step, with sober, measured phrases, he regained his position and turned the momentum against his accusers. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on television. Giving birth to himself, Thomas reenacted his own credo of self-made man.

But Alberto Gonzales is no Clarence Thomas — and his days as AG are numbered. Gonzales isn’t Spanish for “Souter”; it’s Spanish for “toast.”
Al, the President’s Man [Slate.com]
On a Very Hot Seat With Little Cover and Less Support [New York Times]
Gonzales Rejects Call for His Ouster [Associated Press]
Senators Chastise Gonzales at Hearing [Washington Post]
Gonzales Says He Didn’t Know Why Two Were Fired [Washington Post]
Roughed Up on the Hill [Washington Post]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Alberto Gonzalez Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:

“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”

“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”

“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”

“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”

“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”

OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess.
Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)

Alberto Gonzales 2 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re picking up with where we left off, in our liveblogging of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:50: Sen. Herb. Kohl is REALLY going after AGAG. He cites poll data showing that approximately half of the American public wants Gonzales to resign.
Kohl is in essence asking: Why are you still here? He suggests to Gonzales that these poll results matter, because American people’s perceptions of the DOJ and whether justice is being done are very important.
Gonzales has a good line here: “You’re right, Senator. This is not about Alberto Gonzales.” He then says it’s about the work the DOJ is doing (to “protect our children,” of course).
11:00: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tosses a bunch of softballs in AGAG’s direction. He’s the most friendly questioner of the morning thus far. He also notes that some time ago, a Democratic senator predicted that Gonzales would be gone as AG within a week. “And yet here you are, still Attorney General, a month later. And I’m glad to see that.”
11:08: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is up now. Her lilac blazer stands out in the sea of dark suits.
Feinstein tries to zero in on the precise extent of Gonzales’s involvement. Great line: “Who was the Decider?”
We love ourselves some DiFi!
Okay, time for a 10-minute recess — the first of the morning.
And now we’re back. More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)”

Alberto Gonzales Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re liveblogging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s desperate fight for his political life testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is just getting underway. Our commentary will be added continuously to this post (until we eventually migrate to a new post). So just refresh your browser for the latest.
9:35: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), SJC Chairman, has been reading a lengthy introductory statement. It’s way harsh on AlGo.
(Nice tie, Senator Leahy — alternating mint and forest green stripes. And a crisp white shirt — not a button-down-collar, thankfully. Politicians dress so much better than judges.)
9:41: Leahy gets in a dig about the White House being content to turn U.S. Attorney’s Offices into outposts of the Bush Administration.
The camera cuts to Gonzales, whose lower lip juts out defiantly — and he shakes his head vigorously, to show disagreement with Leahy’s statement. Will the famously mild-mannered Gonzales actually display some cojones?
More discussion after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)”

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