Monica Goodling, the 33-year-old Republican apparatchik whose lack of qualifications and excess of zealotry have come to symbolize the U.S. Attorney scandal, testifies today before the House Judiciary Committee.
Two months ago, Goodling's attorneys set out to prove to the skeptics, who initially scoffed at her claimed right to take the Fifth Amendment to avoid a "perjury trap," that her self-incrimination fear was legitimate. Team Goodling succeeded, but only because it became evident that Goodling could indeed be charged with any number of crimes, ranging from illegally using party loyalty as a hiring criterion to causing Paul McNulty to testify falsely to Congress. So, her fear of her testimony being used against her in a criminal prosecution was reasonable.
It is ironic. First, she supposedly feared being charged with perjury. The worm has turned, of course, and now Goodling has agreed to an immunity deal in which perjury is the only thing for which she can be prosecuted. I suppose that was the plan all along.
The attempt to create a Department of Justice populated only by anti-civil rights Republicans is a tactic new to America, but common other places in the world. Who knew that when Bush looked deeply into Putin's eyes in June 2001, the sense of Putin's soul that Bush gained involved political tactics?
As demonstrated by the U.S. attorney appointment system, Bush has tried to establish one-party rule in the old Soviet tradition. It even has been masked by phony elections, just like back in the U.S.S.R. The office of United States Attorney is a political appointment, true enough, but never before, as far as we know, have U.S. attorneys been bullied by the President's party into prosecuting the other party and fired for investigating members of the President's party.
Some of the cases are easy and some are hard. David Inglesias, the easiest case of impropriety to demonstrate, obviously was fired after he resisted GOP pressure to indict Democrats for corruption before the last election. According to this graphic in the Washington Post, Inglesias was not on any firing list until the 2006 election came and went without those indictments.
I will be most interested to see what Ms. Goodling has to say about Carol Lam of San Diego. Bush apologists have contended that Lam was fired for insufficient prosecution of illegal border crossings and indeed Viper alarm mogul and Congressman Darrell Issa had been waging a one-man campaign against Lam on that basis. Issa wanted a 'zero tolerance" border crossing policy, which would have been interesting in light of the 140,000 such arrests in the Southern District of California each year and the fact that Lam's office only had 110 attorneys. Lam had been concentrating on what she terms "investigations of alien smuggling organizations, corrupt border law enforcement agencies and immigration defendant with prior convictions of violent crimes." I have seen no serious argument that this tactic was not both appropriate and successful.
Except for some know nothing internal e-mails, the Department of Justice had basically been blowing Issa off. It was not a lack of immigration prosecutions, or a lack of gun prosecutions -another concocted reason, but Lam's successful investigation of GOP Congressman Randy 'Duke' Cunningham and continuing investigations of powerful GOP Congressman Jerry Lewis and former CIA Executive Director Dusty Foggo that caused Kyle Samson to famously write on May 11, 2006 that "[t]he real problem we have right now is Carol Lam." This was the day after Lam told the DOJ that she intended to search Foggo's office.
A couple of months ago, I wrote this post claiming that Lam was fired to put the kibosh on these investigations, provoking this response by Tom Maguire, defending his pal Patterico and claiming that weakness on immigration offenses was the real reason Lam was fired. We each had some evidence, but it was too early to tell, so let's see what has occurred in the intervening two months.
Most importantly, on May 3, 2007, James Comey, the former second in command at DOJ, testified to the House Judiciary Committee that Ms. Lam was a "fine" U.S. Attorney. He also debunked a charge by political DOJ appointees that Lam had an unacceptably low rate of gun prosecution. Comey pointed out that if the local District Attorney office was adequately prosecuting gun crimes, as it was in San Diego, there was no need for the federal government to step in. Much has been made of Comey having called up Lam about her gun prosecution rate, but Comey indicated that he was satisfied with Lam's answers and, in fact, that none of the ten other U.S. Attorneys he had called for the same reason had been terminated.
On March 29, 2007, during Kyle Sampson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee, it came out that the firing of Lam caused the San Diego FBI bureau to write an adamant letter praising Lam for her strong prosecution of immigration offenses and even to contact the press to complain that Lam's continuing in office was "crucial" to several ongoing investigations. Despite this, Sampson claimed that the "real problem" was, in Sampson's words, the lack of "immigration enforcement deliverables," He admitted that no one ever notified Lam of this concern and did not explain why this became an emergency about the time that searches were being conducted of Lewis's and Foggo's offices.
Attorney General Gonzales' House and Senate testimony did not shed light on this issue. He spouted the line that Lam was fired for insufficient gun and immigration prosecutions, but was unable to provide any details. He had ordered an inquiry into these areas because of "numerous complaints" from unspecified sources. Gonzales admitted that he was unsure if anyone had ever told Lam about the supposed concerns with her performance although he believed that she was aware of the concerns and he "expected" that his concerns would be communicated.
Then there is the strange Wilkes prosecution in San Diego in which Mark Garagos, who represents a defense contractor charged with corruption by Lam just before she was ousted, claims that Lam's office leaked information to the press in an effort to force the DOJ to allow Lam to obtain an indictment. Who knows whether Garagos is blowing smoke, but his essential charge is that the DOJ was resisting the prosecutions, which were connected with the bribes taken by former GOP Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Emptywheel has a theory supporting allegations that the DOJ was trying to interfere with the Wilkes case, but the most telling thing, as to Wilkes, Foggo and Lewis, is that the DOJ told Lam to get out immediately and not to worry about transitioning her cases. Others of the fired U.S. Attorneys were allowed to leave at a more leisurely pace.
I don't think the big hurry was a lack of immigration or gun prosecutions.