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Bush’s Monica Speaks—and DOJ Runs for Cover

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Wednesday was Monica Goodling day in the House Judiciary Committee. After invoking the Fifth Amendment, Monica got immunity in order to facilitate her testimony. In the end, what she put on the record is very unwelcome news for the three men at the top of the Justice Department–Alberto Gonzales, Paul J. McNulty, and William E. Moschella. Each is made out to be at least not very forthcoming in Congressional testimony, and perhaps even perjurious.

First, she made clear that she understood that her main function–weeding out presumptive liberals and Democrats–was unlawful and that she “crossed the line” in doing it in a great number of cases. She was highly evasive as to the number, though she seemed to feel it was not more than fifty. In any event, it was a large number.

Second, she laid the heaviest blows on McNulty–so much so that one really has to wonder whether she isn’t coordinating with Gonzales (indeed, she lays the suggestion for that herself) in his all-too-obvious scheme to make McNulty into the fall guy. By her testimony, McNulty went to the hill and consciously misled Congress about the entire Purgegate process and his role in it. Monica explains that her decision to take the Fifth was reached after she saw McNulty give false testimony; she was concerned that some of this would be attributed to her and her preparation of McNulty.

Third, she revealed that she’d had a conversation with Alberto Gonzales in which he took some care to rehearse with her his recollection of what transpired in their discussions. This will assuredly be seen by some as coaching a witness, perhaps to give false or misleading testimony–a very serious charge. And it’s compounded by the fact that Gonzales testified repeatedly that he had avoided having just this sort of meeting with staff. Indeed, he attributed his lapses of memory to the fact that he hadn’t been able to refresh his recollection through discussion with staffers.

What’s most troubling about the entire hearing is the failure of the questioners to ask the most obvious questions: describe your discussions with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers concerning the firing of the U.S. attorneys and the process to be taken for their replacement. It’s very clear this is where the key decisions were taken, and that Monica was essentially the go-between for Rove and Miers with main Justice. How this set of questions could have been missed is beyond me. It’s a staggering oversight. Dahlia Lithwick’s account in Slate is superior.

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