By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
The Justice Department cleared the way yesterday for a limited immunity deal between House investigators and Monica M. Goodling, a former top Justice aide who has refused to answer questions about her role in last year's firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
The move means that Goodling is likely to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on a broad range of questions about the firings that she helped coordinate, including the extent of involvement by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the White House, officials said.
Goodling, who resigned last month as Gonzales's senior counselor and White House liaison, has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions from House and Senate investigators about the firings. She worked closely with D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, on the dismissals and is also the subject of an internal Justice Department investigation of whether she weighed political affiliation in reviewing hiring decisions for career prosecutors.
"I believe obtaining her testimony will be a critical step in our efforts to get to the truth about the circumstances surrounding the U.S. attorney firings and possible politicization in the department's prosecutorial function," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary panel.
The next step in the legal process will come Friday, when the House counsel will file an immunity request with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Goodling's attorney, John M. Dowd, said his client will comply with whatever order the court issues.
The Justice Department's inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, and H. Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, have begun a joint inquiry into the prosecutor firings. They indicated in a letter to Conyers that they "intend to take the investigation wherever it leads."
"As in any investigation that potentially could involve evidence of criminal conduct, we would prefer that any potential subject not be granted immunity at this stage of the investigation," the two officials wrote. "However, we understand the Committee's interest in obtaining Ms. Goodling's testimony."
Also yesterday, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested cooperation from Bradley J. Schlozman, a former interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., who has come under fire for filing indictments against four liberal voter registration workers just before November's elections.