Counselor To Gonzales Announces Resignation

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 7, 2007

The senior counselor to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales submitted her resignation yesterday, becoming the third high-ranking Justice Department aide to quit in the aftermath of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

The departure of Monica M. Goodling, 33, comes two weeks after she first refused to answer questions from Congress about the firings, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Goodling's resignation also comes amid signs of sinking morale in some U.S. attorney's offices. In Minneapolis, three top managers staged a revolt Thursday, choosing to demote themselves rather than work for the newly confirmed U.S. attorney there, who is a former Gonzales aide, officials said. The department was so alarmed that it sent a Washington-based Justice official to Minneapolis this week to try to talk the three out of their plans, officials said.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee also stepped up their demands yesterday for hundreds of pages of unreleased records related to the firings that the Justice Department has deemed too sensitive for release to Congress.

Gonzales, meanwhile, has largely disappeared from public view as he prepares for a crucial April 17 appearance before the committee to explain his role in the firings.

Seven prosecutors were dismissed in December and another was removed earlier as part of a plan set in motion by the White House to replace U.S. attorneys viewed as insufficiently loyal to President Bush or his policies. Gonzales has sought to minimize his role in the firings, but recently released documents and testimony show he was regularly briefed on the effort.

Goodling's departure follows the resignation last month of D. Kyle Sampson as Gonzales's chief of staff. Sampson went on to testify before the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales was more directly involved in the firings than he had acknowledged, and that the attorney general was aware of proposals to circumvent the Senate confirmation process for some U.S. attorneys.

The Justice official who carried out the firings, Michael A. Battle, also left the department last month. Battle and other department officials have said his departure was not connected to the dismissals.

"Attorney General Gonzales's hold on the department gets more tenuous each day," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who has been among the most vocal Capitol Hill Democrats calling for Gonzales's resignation.

Sampson and Goodling worked closely together on the firings, particularly in the case of an Arkansas prosecutor removed to make way for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove. Both participated in briefings for Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty and others prior to testimony before Congress that has since been shown to be inaccurate.

Goodling and her attorneys have cited McNulty's complaints about her role in those briefings as a key reason for her refusal to testify.

In a letter late yesterday to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the Justice Department said Goodling's departure renders moot any concerns about conflicts between her and others who remain employed at Justice.

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