Attorney Purge Updates

Ken AshfordAttorney FiringsLeave a Comment

This scandal is getting out of control. hard to keep up:

(1) Monica Goodling is now facing a Justice Department investigation for her role in screening career attorneys for party affiliation.

The Justice Department has launched an internal investigation into whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s former White House liaison illegally took party affiliation into account in hiring career federal prosecutors, officials said yesterday.

The allegations against Monica M. Goodling represent a potential violation of federal law and signal that a joint probe begun in March by the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility has expanded beyond the controversial dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

The bad news is that this internal DOJ investigation may prevent her from testifying to Congress.  But at least the spotlight is on her, as it should be.

(2)  A top Justice Department official has now been accused of trying to bully fired prosecutors into silence.

In newly released statements, [two dismissed U.S. attorneys] alleged that they were threatened by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty’s chief of staff immediately before Gonzales testified in the Senate in January.

Paul K. Charlton of Phoenix and John McKay of Seattle said that Michael J. Elston called them on Jan. 17 and offered an implicit agreement of Gonzales’s silence in exchange for their continuing not to publicly discuss their removals. Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee the next day and refused to provide details about the firings.

“My handwritten and dated notes of this call reflect that I believed Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal,” McKay wrote in response to questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

(3) The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas Karl Rove’s emails.

Also yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Gonzales seeking all of Rove’s e-mails in Justice Department custody related to the firings. They include e-mails turned over to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald as part of his investigation of the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity. The subpoena is the second to be formally served on Gonzales in the probe of the prosecutor dismissals.

The subpoena to Gonzales from Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) demands copies of any e-mails sent by Rove — through either the White House or the Republican National Committee — related to the appointment, performance or replacement of U.S. attorneys and career or political personnel at Justice.

The fact that the emails were sent to the Justice Department makes it hard to assert an executive privilege claim.  Heh.

(4)  Paul Kiel writes about Carol Lam’s firing: “In her written answers to questions from Congress, Lam recounted a conversation with Justice Department official Michael Elston after she was fired in which Elston made it clear to her that she would be gone within ‘weeks’ regardless of the fate of certain cases, and that this order came ‘from the highest levels of the government.’”

"Highest levels of government"?  Doesn’t sound like an apt description of Sampson and Goodling, does it.