It’s Not A Scandal Unless There’s A ‘Monica’ Involved

Ken AshfordAttorney Firings, ConstitutionLeave a Comment

And now we have one.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s senior counselor, Monica Goodling, yesterday refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The letter sent by Monica’s attorneys explains the reasons why.  But here’s the thing: none of the reasons pertain to self-incrimination

You can’t invoke the privilege because you think the investigation is being conducted in a "partisan" fashion (yet this is one of the "reasons" given). 

You can’t invoke the privilege because it may lead to criminal charges against someone else (yet this is one of the "reasons" given). 

The real reason that Monica’s lawyer want her to avoid testifying is spelled out thusly:

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real. One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby."

The only problem with that sentence is that Lewis Libby was convicted of NOT giving truthful and accurate testimony.  And he was found guilty — not by a panel of partisan Democrat congressmen — but by a jury of ordinary American citizens. 

Now, it may be true that a witness innocent of wrongdoing may well refuse to answer a question not because he fears conviction, but because he fears unfounded prosecution.  (UPDATE: Orin Kerr disagrees).  However, since the risk of "unfounded prosecution" one runs at all times (theoretically at least) the 5th Amendment invocation must be asserted in good faith.  I suggest that this is not made in good faith, since the attorneys invoke Scooter Libby — a man who was NOT unfoundly unprosecuted according to a jury of his peers.

I suspect what is really going on is that she is afraid to testify, in part because there’s hardly a consensus in the White House and DOJ as to what the cover story is for the attorney firings.  Nice of her to want to be a part of the loyal team, but she’s toast now anyway.  She might as well save her soul and talk.  It’s her only key to salvation.

RELATED:  It’s worth noting that the deputy AG testified truthfully last month, and that’s how this scandal started.  Of course, he testified about the TRUTH, something which the White House urged him not to do.  For the people in the White House, telling the truth is secondary to preserving their power.