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From The Chicago Tribune:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is likely to face questions about the allegedly mediocre status of U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald when he arrives here Tuesday for a scheduled round table discussion and press conference.

Gonzales is supposed to be at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to discuss the "Project Safe Childhood" campaign designed to protect kids from online predators. But he's likely to be asked to field inquiries about Fitzgerald being ranked as undistinguished on a chart sent to the White House from the Justice Department in 2005, as well as the controversial fall firings of a group of U.S. attorneys.

We'll get you word of how that went later. Via Firedoglake.

Josh broached the issue of Monica Goodling's invocation of the Fifth last night, and since then a number of lawyers have written in to say that it's really not so complicated.

Here's TPM Reader/Lawyer DL:

Although Dowd's letter on Goodling's behalf is a model of lawyerly obfuscation, Ms. Goodling's affidavit, which is attached to the letter, invokes the magic word "self-incrimination," and therefore appears to satisfy the foundation for asserting the privilege.

And another TPM reader, this one a lawyer in D.C., is even more frank:

Monica Goodling does have a good faith basis for pleading the Fifth Amendment - just not the ones in her lawyer's letter that are getting all the attention.

Under the federal False Statements statute, 18 USC 1001, it is a felony to cause another person to make a false statement to Congress. Since McNulty has allegedly told Senator Schumer that he made a false statement to Congress based on information provided to him by Monica Goodling, Goodling could very well be prosecuted for a Section 1001 violation.

All the rest of the crap in her lawyer's letter is intended to sooth as much as possible White House anger at her for invoking the Fifth.

Soon, it will be on its way to the president's desk. And for those curious about the roll call, only 72 Republicans voted against.

So both houses voted overwhelmingly to ensure Senate confirmation for U.S. attorneys. What a difference a scandal can make.

DOJ Official Ignored White House Guidance "The firestorm over the fired U.S. attorneys was sparked last month when a top Justice Department official ignored guidance from the White House and rejected advice from senior administration lawyers over his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The official, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, ignored White House Counsel Harriet Miers and senior lawyers in the Justice Department when he told the committee last month of specific reasons why the administration fired seven U.S. attorneys." (ABC News)

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Finally, some clarity.

The New York Times provides the history of U.S. concern over Iran's role in Iraq, reporting that in July, 2005, the U.S. sent a diplomatic protest to Iran over the use of allegedly Iranian-made explosives (EFPs) being used against coalition troops in Iraq by Shiite groups.

Somehow these concerns culminated in the U.S. military's infamous, anonymous EFP press briefing in mid-February.

It was a long road. But let's focus in on one thing. It's always been a credible allegation that Iran would in some fashion be supplying its Shiite proxies in the civil war, but let's set that aside. That's not the allegation that the U.S. made in that briefing and immediately thereafter. Rather, the administration clearly made a choice to focus on the evidence that Iranian manufactured weapons were being used in Iraq and stay silent on the crucial detail of who they were being used by. The briefing referred to Iranian support of generic "extremists," without specifying Sunni or Shiite.

The reason for this choice was clear: the vast majority of U.S. casualties come at the hands of Sunni insurgents, not Shiite. But suddenly Iran was elevated to being the major enemy there. Soon senior State Department officials were claiming that Iran is "the most disruptive, negative force in the Middle East." Move over, Al Qaeda.

But it's clear from the Times' piece that there was never any ambiguity -- on the part of the U.S. military, at least -- as to whom Iran might be supplying with weapons.

And that briefing? It wasn't for the purpose of galvanizing public support for a war against Iran, no. It was merely a tactical decision: Baghdad, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then the top American commander, approved plans to brief the news media on the E.F.P. issue — a reversal for military officials, who had been reluctant to highlight the effectiveness of the weapons for fear of encouraging their use.

“Our intelligence analysts advised our leaders that the historical Quds Force pattern is to pull back when their operations are exposed, so MNF-I leadership decided to expose their operations to save American lives,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for Multinational Forces-Iraq, as the American-led command is known.

I guess we all just overreacted then?

Update: And while we're at it, it's worth mentioning again that the claim that Iran is the only possible supplier for EFPs in Iraq has been debunked.

From an interview tonight with NBC:

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I asked for their resignation not for improper reasons. I would never have asked for their resignations to interfere with a public corruption case or in any way to interfere with an ongoing investigation. I just wouldn't do that. And if you look carefully at the documentation we've provided to Congress, there's no evidence of that....

I directed the Department officials participate in interviews and hearings before the Congress. As I've indicated, I've asked OPR to be involved, to work with the Office of Inspector General so we can reassure the American public that nothing improper happened here. I've got nothing to hide in terms of what I've done. And we now want to reassure the American public that nothing improper happened here.

If I find out that, in fact, any of these decisions were motivated, the recommendations to me were motivated for improper reasons to interfere with the public corruption case, there will be swift and -- there will be swift and decisive action. I can assure you that.

PETE WILLIAMS: Meaning people would be fired?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Absolutely. Because there is no place for that. Our prosecutors have to-- there has to be no question about the integrity, the professionalism, undue influence of prosecutions in connection with public corruption kinds of cases. And if I find out that any of that occurred here involving the Department of Justice officials, yes, they will be removed.

Gonzales also explains the discrepancy between his March 13 statement that "I was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" and the revelation that he participated in just such a meeting about what was going on ten days before the firings.

What he really meant, he explains, was that he wasn't involved in the nitty-gritty: "I was never focused on specific concerns about United States Attorneys as to whether or not they should be asked to resign." And no wonder. The reasons kept changing.

Don't worry, Senate Judiciary Committee. Monica Goodling's choice to take the Fifth notwithstanding, Kyle Sampson will keep that date on Thursday. Just out from his lawyer, Bradford Berenson:

"Kyle plans to testify fully, truthfully, and publicly. Hearings in a highly politicized environment like this can sometimes become a game of gotcha, but Kyle has decided to trust the Congress and the process."

Something tells me that Pat Leahy and Goodling's lawyer, John Dowd, won't be getting drinks together anytime soon.

Shortly after Monica Goodling's lawyer informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would take the Fifth if called to testify, committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) released a statement:

“It is disappointing that Ms. Goodling has decided to withhold her important testimony from the Committee as it pursues its investigation into this matter, but everybody has the constitutional right not to incriminate themselves with regard to criminal conduct.

“The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling’s concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the Committee under oath.”

The line about wondering what Goodling was hiding was too much for her lawyer, who immediately shot off a letter saying that "your comment ignores the very basis on which Ms. Goodling has asserted her constitutional right... the Fifth Amendment protects innocent persons who might otherwise be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances, as much as it protects those who may have done something wrong." [his emphasis]

He then goes on to deride the "politically charged environment" created by Leahy and his peers in which "even innocent witnesses would be well-advised not to testify." So there.

Sen. Leahy? Ball's in your court.

You can read the letter from Monica Goodling's lawyer to the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Here's her logic for pleading the Fifth in a nutshell: she won't get a fair hearing because Democrats have already concluded DoJ officials lied to Congress and one Justice Department official has already admitted to Democrats that he was "not entirely candid" in his testimony and blamed Goodling and others for the lapse.

I'll let Goodling's lawyer lay out the case, but just to fill in the blank, the "senior Justice Department official" who fessed up to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he was "not entirely candid" is likely Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty (Assistant Attorney General William Moschella also testified).

Here's Schumer on Meet The Press last week:

SEN. SCHUMER: Paul McNulty himself, I know him, he called me on the phone and said, "I am sorry that I didn't tell you the truth. I was not told that these things were happening by the people who were supposed to brief me." Now, one of those people is Kyle Sampson, Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to the attorney general. And Kyle Sampson says everyone knew what was going on here. We have to get to the bottom of this.

Update: Here's Schumer on Goodling's decision: "We are disappointed that we won't hear Ms. Goodling's testimony at the Judiciary Committee hearing, particularly given her two roles as senior member of Attorney General's team and liaison to the White House. Each day brings new developments making it even more imperative to find out what happened."

Update: We've fixed the bad link so you can read the full letter in the document collection now. Sorry!

Despite the fact that no one from the Justice Department ever confronted Carol Lam over her performance on immigration prosecutions -- and the fact that Lam's connection to the Duke Cunningham case remains a far more credible logic for her firing --, the story that she was dismissed because of that continues to gain credence. So let's take one last look at what the record shows.

First and foremost, the idea that Lam did not prioritize border cases is demonstrably false. As the Justice Department stated in a letter three months before Lam was fired, half of the prosecutors in Lam's office were dedicated to criminal immigration cases.

Second, the demand that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and others were making, that her office have a "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting alien smuggling, was an impossible one. All you need to do is look at the numbers. There are approximately 140,000 immigration arrests in Lam's district per year -- and approximately 110 lawyers in her office to handle them. They manage to file around 3,000 cases per year total, one of the largest loads in the country.

Third (and it bears repeating), Justice Department officials never confronted Lam about her immigration policy.

The ire directed at Lam from Republican lawmakers and some within the Justice Department had to do with a choice Lam made. Given the chronic lack of resources -- approximately 140,000 immigration arrests in Lam's district per year vs. approximately 110 lawyers in her office --, she decided to use her resources to prosecute the more serious cases. As an internal Justice Department report summarized the strategy:

SDCA [the Southern District of California] does not prosecute purely economic migrants. SDCA directs its resources to bringing felony charges against the most egregious violators, focusing on illegal aliens with substantial criminal histories such as violent/major felons, recidivist felons, repeat immigration violators on supervised release, and alien smuggles and guides. SDCA does not prosecute foot guides that do not have a serious criminal history.

It was a calculation with potentially adverse poltical consequences, since it would mean a drop in the sheer number of cases filed. And it was the reason that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and others directed cricitism at Lam.

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