Attorneys for Gonzales Aide Criticize Congressional Democrats
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; 3:56 PM
Attorneys for Monica M. Goodling, a senior aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, fired back at House and Senate Democrats today, reiterating her intent not to cooperate with a probe into the firing of eight federal prosecutors and comparing lawmakers pursuing her to the Cold War ideologue, former senator Joseph McCarthy.
In a letter to House Democrats, Goodling's attorneys lambasted Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), for questioning whether Goodling was hiding criminal activity by refusing to testify before Congress.
Attorneys John M. Dowd and Jeffrey King wrote that Goodling's assertion of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination "can in no way be interpreted to suggest that Ms. Goodling herself participated in any criminal activity."
"Your and Senator Leahy's recent suggestions to the contrary are unfortunately reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who infamously labeled those who asserted their constitutional right to remain silent before his committee 'Fifth Amendment Communists,'" the attorneys wrote.
McCarthy served as a Republican senator from Wisconsin from 1947 to 1957, earning a reputation for unsubstantiated charges that large numbers of communists had infiltrated the federal government. He was ultimately censured by the Senate, and his name became synonymous with demagoguery.
The letter is the latest volley in a spirited war of words between Goodling's lawyers and congressional Democrats, who have demanded that Goodling answer questions about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year. Goodling, who is on leave from her job as one of Gonzales's top aides, has refused.
The dispute comes as House and Senate investigators continue setting up interviews with some of Gonzales's closest aides in preparation for testimony from the attorney general later this month. Lawmakers are investigating whether Gonzales or others at Justice sought to mislead Congress in previous testimony that obscured the White House's role in coordinating the prosecutor dismissals.
Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, who testified in the Senate in early February, has told Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he provided erroneous information to Congress in part because Goodling and other aides did not fully inform him of the details surrounding the firings. Goodling and her attorneys have pointed to that allegation as a central reason for her refusal to be questioned.
Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, and other Democrats have questioned Goodling's rationale for refusing to be interviewed, arguing that she must assert her Fifth Amendment right in answer to specific questions. The issue also came up at a hearing last week of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Leahy.
In their letter today, Goodling's attorneys left open the possibility that she would appear for testimony if subpoenaed, but would continue to assert her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions.
Goodling worked closely with D. Kyle Sampson, Gonzales's former chief of staff, on preparations for the dismissals, according to Justice documents. Sampson, who resigned from Justice, testified last week that Gonzales was more involved in the firings than he has sometimes acknowledged.