Ex-Aide to Gonzales Accused Of Bias
Thursday, May 3, 2007
The Justice Department has launched an internal investigation into whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's former White House liaison illegally took party affiliation into account in hiring career federal prosecutors, officials said yesterday.
The allegations against Monica M. Goodling represent a potential violation of federal law and signal that a joint probe begun in March by the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility has expanded beyond the controversial dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
The revelations about Goodling were among several developments yesterday in connection with the firings, including a new subpoena seeking presidential adviser Karl Rove's e-mails and new accusations from two of the dismissed U.S. attorneys.
In newly released statements, the two alleged that they were threatened by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty's chief of staff immediately before Gonzales testified in the Senate in January.
Paul K. Charlton of Phoenix and John McKay of Seattle said that Michael J. Elston called them on Jan. 17 and offered an implicit agreement of Gonzales's silence in exchange for their continuing not to publicly discuss their removals. Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee the next day and refused to provide details about the firings.
"My handwritten and dated notes of this call reflect that I believed Mr. Elston's tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal," McKay wrote in response to questions from the House Judiciary Committee.
Elston's attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, said the calls were to reassure the two prosecutors that Gonzales did not plan to reveal their dismissals, which were not public then.
"Mike didn't intend to intimidate anybody," Driscoll said.
Two other fired prosecutors complained pointedly about Elston, according to the statements released yesterday.
Carol C. Lam of San Diego wrote that Elston "erroneously accused me of 'leaking' my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys."
Bud Cummins of Little Rock repeated his account of a Feb. 20 phone call with Elston, two days after Cummins was quoted in a newspaper article. Cummins wrote that Elston "essentially said that if the controversy continued, then some of the USAs would have to be 'thrown under the bus.' " Elston has previously described Cummins's reaction as the product of a misunderstanding.
The firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year -- seven on them on one day -- sparked a furor in Congress as Gonzales and other Justice officials offered shifting explanations for the move. McKay and another prosecutor, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, also have alleged improper contacts from GOP lawmakers about ongoing criminal investigations, causing some Democrats to allege that some of the prosecutors were dismissed for political reasons.