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Bush’s Monica and the Plot Against the Hatch Act

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Today the New York Times’s Eric Lipton takes a close look at the role played by Department of Justice White House liaison Monica Goodling and the program to subvert the Hatch Act by building political litmus tests into the hiring process across the board at the Department of Justice. One thing that emerges is that Monica’s role was not limited to hiring. She aggressively culled the rolls of senior Department civil servants looking for figures who were suspected of having political loyalties to the Democratic Party. Anyone who fell under such suspicions would then be placed under intense pressure to leave. Lipton illustrates this pattern with the case of a career prosecutor pressured out of a key supervisory position dealing with U.S. attorneys.

Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.

“You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.” Ms. Ashton’s ouster—she left the Executive Office for United States Attorneys for another Justice Department post two weeks later—was a critical early step in a plan that would later culminate in the ouster of nine United States attorneys last year.

Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

Monica now faces an internal inquiry by the Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility. Additionally, she has been granted immunity and is under a court order to testify before the House and Senate committees investigating Purgegate. No doubt Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will try to pin Purgegate on Monica and will say that her role as Lord-High Executioner was her own invention. That, of course, is a preposterous idea. It is already abundantly clear that Monica was filling the role crafted for her by the White House and empowered by Alberto Gonzales through his secret order. It’s time for real accountability. But it’s unreasonable to expect this from an internal DOJ review.

Monica’s upcoming Congressional testimony could be a watershed moment in this controversy.

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