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Monica’s DOJ Makeover

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As I noted in “Vote Machine,” one simmering scandal inside of the Justice Department relates to the consistent carefully schemed effort to force career DOJ employees out to make way for political hacks recruited and placed in career positions. A number of different techniques were employed to realize this plan. In an interview I conducted recently with a retired first assistant U.S. attorney, I heard how one U.S. attorney with notorious political ambitions had used a buyout scheme to take out a large number of senior career attorneys. No sooner were they gone than their places were filled with a group of new attorneys–each of whom was well known for involvement in Republican Party politics. On January 20, 2009, the political appointees at Justice will be submitting their resignations so the new president can select and install his own team. However, the career track placements from the Bush era are there for keeps. Will they serve as a fifth column to obstruct the agenda of a new Democratic administration? That may well be the idea.

As we noted earlier, Regent University alumna Monica Goodling had worked closely with Karl Rove’s opposition research team and then found herself installed in the Justice Department as a personnel gatekeeper. Alberto Gonzales at one point issued a secret order conveying to Monica his power to hire and fire at the department, a move which was probably designed to give Rove and his crew control over the process, and to provide Gonzales with plausible deniability. Yesterday NPR offered some precious detail, seemingly leaked from the pending internal DOJ investigation, into how Monica performed the grim reaper side of her job portfolio. They examine the case of Leslie Hagen, a Justice employee forced out by Goodling. Why exactly?

Justice Department e-mails obtained by NPR show that Gonzales’s senior counsel Monica Goodling had a particular interest in Hagen’s duties…. The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into whether Hagen was dismissed after a rumor reached Goodling that Hagen is lesbian.

As one Republican source put it, “To some people, that’s even worse than being a Democrat.” Several people interviewed by the inspector general’s staff said investigators asked whether people drew a connection between the rumors and Hagen’s dismissal….

Someone who worked in Hagen’s office says that in a 2006 meeting, senior officials were told that Hagen’s contract would not be renewed because someone on the attorney general’s staff had a problem with Hagen. The problem, it was suggested during the conversation, was sexual orientation — or what was rumored to be Hagen’s sexual orientation. One person at the meeting asked, “Is that really an issue?” But the decision had been made.

Now Paul Kiel reports that the Inspector General’s investigation is taking a broader look at sexual orientation issues in the hiring process.

The inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility sent out a questionnaire to anyone who had interviewed for a job at the DoJ during [Gonzales’s] tenure. One thing investigators wanted to know about was whether the interviewer had asked about the applicant’s sexual orientation.

Did Monica Goodling’s conduct cross the line? That doesn’t seem a complex question. Indeed, Goodling acknowledged that she acted unlawfully in connection with the appointment of immigration judges, a point on which her colleague Kyle Sampson was also engaged.

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