I've long been a skeptic of the value of Monica Goodling's testimony. And today's big story on Monica doesn't make me feel any better about it. Here's a short version of Monica's entire career--basically a direct path to where she eventually oversaw all kinds of hiring and firing at DOJ.
1999: Monica gets her JD from Regents U
1999-2001: Monica works in oppo research for the Bush-Cheney campaign with Barbara Comstock, Mark Corallo, and Tim Griffin; she is involved in preparing Ted Olson and John Ashcroft for their nomination hearings
2002 to 2004: Monica serves as Barbara Comstock's Deputy; in 2002 Ashcroft changes the rules on civil service hires, resulting in a dramatically different profile among the career ranks; Monica serves as point person on judicial nominations
September 2004 to March 2005: Monica works in ED VA, playing prosecutor
March 2005 to Fall 2005: Monica works in EOUSA, reviewing AUSAs appointed by interim USAs
Fall 2005 to April 2007: Monica works as counselor to AGAG. In this position she retains her authority over reviewing AUSA hires. In March 2006, Gonzales cedes hiring decisions over political appointees to her.
With the exception of the six months when she was playing prosecutor in ED VA, she was slowly accruing more and more authority over hiring at DOJ, first by helping to prep judicial nominees Ashcroft and Olson, then by taking the internal lead on judicial nominations, then by overseeing the newly politicized hiring of career appointees, and finally, in March 2006, by having the authority to hire and fire political appointees. When she left in April, she appears to have had some influence over all level of hires at DOJ, from lifetime judgeships to summer interns.
And as today's article explains, in that role she has done a number of things that clearly violate federal employment practices. She has denied promotions to people who appear to be Democrats, has asked partisan questions in interviews for career positions, and she asked one nice Republican if he had ever cheated on his wife.
We're about to excuse Monica all of these actions--actions which span six years of efforts to politicize DOJ--and in so doing, ensure that the IG investigation into these activities may expose further illegalities, but no actionable way to hold Goodling accountable for them. And what are going to get in exchange? What higher up is she going to deliver us, with her immunized testimony?
Given how long Monica's been playing this role--preceding Gonzales' tenure at DOJ--she's not going to point to Gonzales. In fact, in his testimony the other day, he very carefully stated that she only had authority over the AUSAs hired by interim USAs. In other words, even knowing they had sewn up an immunity deal with Monica, the HJC did not lead Gonzales to expose himself at all through her testimony.
But I'm not sure Monica will get us where we need to go in this, either--the White House. After all, she has been given a good deal of authority. The delegation to her of hiring authority on political hires, for example, makes no requirement that she consult anyone. She didn't have to consult with Harriet Miers and Karl Rove--that was just consultative, not managerial. So she will honestly be able to testify that she was in charge of this whole process. She was not ordered to do what she did--it's not clear anyone ordered her to politicize DOJ. Which means she will have the ability to be perfectly honest--but also perfectly effective as a firewall.
And the fact that it's HJC that has granted her immunity, and not the SJC, gives me no more confidence. While there have been moments of excellence, by and large the HJC hearings have been wastes of important oversight opportunities. Give Monica to Senator Whitehouse for questioning, and we'll get to Miers and Rove. But give her to HJC, and she will form the perfect firewall for the White House.
Now, I hope this report...
Committee staffers and Goodling's attorney, John Dowd, have held only informal talks about her testimony, according to aides on Capitol Hill. Those talks are expected to intensify next week, with the committee's goal to have Goodling testify before the House breaks for a week-long Memorial Day recess on May 25.
Dowd declined to comment yesterday, but he has said that Goodling would cooperate if ordered to testify under the immunity grant.
...means we are clarifying what we'll get before we actually put Goodling on the witness stand. But if Dowd tells us that she's going to take complete responsibility for all of the politicization of the DOJ, if Dowd tells us she has had no direction other than her own instinct about the role she's supposed to play, what position does that put us in? Can we even charge her for the employment violations she has committed, now that Hogan has signed off on her immunity?
I hope I'm going to be pleasantly surprised. But right now, I'm very skeptical that Monica's immunity deal is going to do us much good.