April 3, 2007

Judiciary Senators Seek Safeguards In DOJ Investigation

...Senators Inquire About Department Protocol To Avoid Internal Conflicts In Dealings With Official Who Has Asserted Fifth Amendment Rights

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, April 3) – Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish appropriate safeguards to avoid potential conflicts of interest as the Judiciary Committee continues its ongoing investigation into the dismissals and replacements of several U.S. attorneys.

Leahy, the chairman of the committee, and Whitehouse, a member of the panel and a former U.S. attorney, asked the Attorney General for the protocol the Department of Justice is following as the Committee determines how to proceed with respect to Monica Goodling, a Department official who has asserted her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination rather than cooperate with the committee’s inquiry.

“The office of the Attorney General appears to be hopelessly conflicted,” wrote Leahy and Whitehouse.

The Senators also sought information about Goodling’s cooperation with a pair of internal DOJ investigations that have been launched into the matter. The Committee was informed last week that Goodling is on leave, but remains a paid employee with the Department after asserting her Fifth Amendment rights. The Department’s policies require employees to cooperate with internal investigations.

The text of the letter is below. A pdf is available upon request.

March 30, 2007

The Honorable Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

As you are aware, Monica Goodling has indicated that she will assert her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the Senate Judiciary Committee rather than testify. You must know that her testimony would be important to the Judiciary Committee, since you offered her as a Department witness and agreed in your meeting with Judiciary Committee Senators on March 8 that the Department would cooperate with the Committee in providing her testimony along with that of others.

In the ordinary course, the Committee would discuss this with your Department to determine the best course of action with respect to a witness who has asserted Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, so as not to unwittingly hinder a prosecution by the Department. While it is premature to presume that any criminal prosecution will result from this inquiry now, it is also premature to presume one will not. It therefore seems advisable to have discussions between the Committee and the

Department regarding how to proceed with regard to Ms. Goodling. Our question to you is: Who do we talk to at the Department of Justice? The office of the Attorney General appears to be hopelessly conflicted.

We would appreciate hearing from you whether a special counsel is necessary for us to speak with, or how you suggest creating appropriate firewalls so that a non-conflicted person with appropriate knowledge and authority can have the customary discussions with the Committee regarding Ms. Goodling’s testimony.

On a related matter, we understand that you initially ordered an investigation by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility and that a joint Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility investigation is now under way. Is Ms. Goodling cooperating with that investigation? It is our understanding that career Department employees are required to cooperate with OIG and OPR investigations.

We are told by the Department that despite Ms. Goodling’s unwillingness to testify, she nonetheless remains on your payroll. Has it ever happened in the history of the Department of Justice that an attorney has refused to cooperate with OIG or OPR or asserted Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and remained an employee of the Department? Please provide information regarding any precedent for these extraordinary circumstances.

We would appreciate hearing from you promptly on these matters.


Chairman                          United States Senator


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