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So -- the day we'd been waiting for has come and gone. The major points are clear by now:

1) Goodling, as directly as she could, accused the deputy attorney general of perjuring himself in testimony to Congress.

2) She said that, in their last conversation, the attorney general had tried to check his recollection of the firing process with her. This was after Congress had requested to interview her, leading to the conclusion that Gonzales was trying to shape her recollection. For his part, Gonzales, through his spokesman, says he was only trying to "comfort her in a very difficult period of her life."

3) She admitted to breaking the law by applying a political litmus test to non-political career positions at the Justice Department, including assistant U.S. attorneys -- that litmus test even included checking applicants' political contributions. She couldn't say just how many times she'd done this, and it was unclear who, if anyone, had told her to do this.

4) Even though she described herself as having a major role in the firing process, she knew remarkably little about it. In fact, she gave the inescapable impression that those involved in the process avoided talking about the reasons for the firings -- or, at least, with the exception of the now-famous brainstorming sessions that took place after Congress started asking questions, reasons certainly were not volunteered. When Goodling herself asked in a meeting who'd put U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias on the firing list (this was in February), a voice said "that's been addressed." She says she can't remember who said that.

With the exception of the meeting with Gonzales, Goodling unloaded all of this in her first minutes of testimony. And as Dahlia Lithwick points out in her column today, the hearing was largely characterized after that by what was left unsaid:

In that first few hours, Goodling manages to give committee Democrats both too much and too little to wrap their heads around. She testifies that former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty gave false and misleading testimony to the Senate with regard to the U.S. attorney purge. She took the Fifth, she says, because of McNulty's inaccurate testimony, plus the "ambiguous environment" of the hearings, and not because of any crime of her own. She testifies that her role as White House liaison has been overblown. She had little contact with the White House (or Karl Rove or Harriet Miers) about the names on the list of U.S. attorneys who were fired but concedes that the White House was extensively involved ("several departments signed off") in the process. She talks about the "final decisionmakers" without ever quite naming them. She puts her former bosses Kyle Sampson, McNulty, and Gonzales in the room as the arbiters of the "list." But almost nobody sees fit to ask follow-up questions about how the list was made, what criteria were used, and what exactly the White House did to play along. Nobody asks why she cried when she quit, what she made of those e-mails, or much of anything at all about Alberto Gonzales.

Finally, Goodling takes complete blame for having "crossed the line"—even the legal line, i.e., the civil-service rules—by asking "political questions of applicants for career positions." In response to a question from Bobby Scott, D-Va., she adds, "But I didn't mean to." Oh. Well then, that's OK....

Democrats who might have pursued the leads she floated about the White House role in the firings stop asking these questions once Goodling fails to implicate Rove. They are so blindsided by her admission of injecting politics into her own hiring practices that they forget to ask who else at the DoJ might have directed her to do so, or done so themselves.


The Democrats have five more days to ask follow-up questions of Goodling. There's still plenty of ground to cover.

During her testimony today, Monica Goodling pointed the finger squarely at Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, saying that he had not been "fully candid" in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his knowledge of White House involvement in the U.S. attorney firings (McNulty had earlier pointed the finger at Sampson and Goodling for not informing him of the White House's role). Goodling laid out four key areas where she said McNulty hadn't told the whole truth in her written statement (pdf) to the committee. Perhaps the most serious allegation she made was that McNulty had told the commmittee that he didn't have any knowledge of how Tim Griffin, Karl Rove's former aide, had come to be appointed the U.S. attorney for Little Rock. In fact, Goodling said, she'd told him that the White House had been involved in Griffin's appointment all along.

Here's Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) questioning Goodling about that. McNulty testified to the committee that he did not know whether Karl Rove had had any role in Griffin's appointment -- but Goodling says that he "had been given some information on that."



But here's a statement just out from McNulty, via the Department of Justice:

“I testified truthfully at the Feb. 6, 2007, hearing based on what I knew at that time. Ms. Goodling's characterization of my testimony is wrong and not supported by the extensive record of documents and testimony already provided to Congress.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) reacts to Goodling's testimony today:

“It is curious that yet another senior Justice Department official claims to have limited involvement in compiling the list that led to the firings of several well-performing federal prosecutors. What we have heard today seems to reinforce the mounting evidence that the White House was pulling the strings on this project to target certain prosecutors in different parts of the country.

“It is deeply troubling that the crisis of leadership at the Department allowed the White House to wield undue political influence over key law enforcement decisions and policies. It is unacceptable that a senior Justice Department official was allowed to screen career employees for political loyalty, and it confirms our worst fears about the unprecedented and improper reach of politics into the Department’s professional ranks.

“As Congress continues its oversight to pull back the curtain on the politicization of the Justice Department, it is abundantly clear that we must do all we can to get to the truth behind this matter and the role White House played in it.”

During her testimony, Monica Goodling testified about a meeting she had with Alberto Gonzales shortly before she left the department -- their last meeting. Goodling dated the conversation as taking place on a Thursday or Friday the week before she went on leave for the department (March 23rd) -- so on March 14th or 15th. That was just a week after Congress requested to interview Goodling about what she knew.

Goodling's testimony is sure to lead to questions about whether Gonzales was trying to tamper with a witness of a congressional investigation.



In this private discussion with Gonzales, Goodling said she asked for a transfer out of her current position because of the scandal. Gonzales said he'd have to think about that, but then started telling Goodling what he remembered about the firing process. He then asked her if she had "any reaction" to his memory. "I didn't know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that," she said, adding that it made her "uncomfortable." When Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) asked if she thought the attorney general had been trying to shape her recollection of the firings, she said no, but then did say again that the conversation had made her feel uncomfortable.

Now, Congress had been openly investigating the firings since January. On March 8, the House Judiciary Committee requested that Goodling testify before the committee. The following week, Gonzales was comparing stories with her. That doesn't sound good.

Update: In a follow-up line of questioning, after Goodling again said that she'd been uncomfortable about her conversation with Gonzales, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked, "But the top law enforcement official in country didn’t raise any concern about the propriety of your discussing this issue?" No, she replied.

And Rep. Davis clarified whether Goodling knew then that she might have to testify and that the attorney general knew that she would. "I think he knew it was likely," she said.

Here's Monica Goodling's testimony about the firings process in a nutshell.



Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) wanted to know if Goodling knew if there were any improper (in the attorney general's narrow sense of the term) reason for the firings. Her answer was less than a ringing endorsement of the firings.

Franks: Did you at any time at your stay at the Justice Department ever seek to prevent or interfere with or affect or influence any particular case or any effort to change the outcome of justice that is the predicate for your agency by hiring or firing or threatening to do so any person or any of these U.S. attorneys that are under discussion?

Goodling: I certainly did not.

Franks: Do you know of anyone in the department or the administration that did?

Goodling: I don’t recall anybody ever saying anything like that. I just don’t. I can’t testify to what other people were thinking and I can’t testify to what other people may have been thinking that they didn’t say. We didn’t talk about what the reasons were, other than Mr. Bogden, at least in conversations I was in, until after it was in progress, and I never heard anybody say anything like that.


Funny: everyone seems to have kept the reasons for the firings to themselves until after they occurred. That's an odd way to have a "consensus based process," as Kyle Sampson insists that it was. What might people have been "thinking that they didn't say?"

Monica Goodling admitted "crossing the line" earlier in her testimony with regard to hiring assistant U.S. attorneys based on their political affiliations. That's against the law. Assistant U.S. attorneys are the prosecutors in the U.S. attorney offices across the country that actually prosecute the cases.

But how many federal prosecutors were submitted to Goodling's litmus test? Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) asked was it fewer than 50, more than 50? Goodling couldn't say. "I can't think that I could have done it more than 50 times, but I don't know."



Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked Goodling if she looked at the political contributions made by applicants for AUSA positions. Goodling said that she'd done that for other non-political career positions and may have done it for prosecutors, too: she couldn't "rule that out."

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Here's Rep. Steve King (R-IA) noting that Harvard University, like Pat Robertson's Regent University, where Goodling attended law school, was also founded on a religious foundation (albeit more than 300 years ago).

Well, at least it's clear. When Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) asked whether the committee needs to go to the White House to get answers about the White House role in the firings, Goodling conceded, "I can't give you the whole White House story."

How do senior Justice Department officials end up giving false testimony to Congress? Well, it's complicated, Goodling testified. But first you start answering one question, then you get another question, and then you get another and then all of a sudden people were answering questions that they didn't have answers for. "It just snowballed into a not good situation."



Goodling also testified here under questioning from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) about making sure that Republicans were hired in certain career Justice Department positions, including detail positions in main Justice and immigration judges. But there was nothing nefarious in this, she said, she just wanted to make sure that people on the leadership team were "on the same page in terms of philosophy." She also said that there were other, "bizarre cases." It's not clear what she was talking about.

Let there be no more allegations that there was anything but a thorough and rigorous process to select U.S. attorneys for firing.

Here's Monica Goodling explaining the process behind the firing of U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden. At a November 27, 2006 meeting with the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and others, Goodling said that DAG Paul McNulty raised a concern about Bogden being on the list. Is there a problem with Bogden, McNulty asked, or is there just a general sense that we could do better?

According to Goodling, Kyle Sampson replied, "“I think it’s a general sense, a general kind of sense that we could do better.” After that, everyone looked to the attorney general, she said, and "I think he nodded and said 'OK.'" So there you go.

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