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DOJ Politicization: Will Political Litmus Tests In Hiring For DOJ Spell End To Goodling Immunity Deal?

The DOJ’s offices of OIG and OPR issued a new report today (PDF) on the politicization of hiring at Justice. Marcy has a fantastic run-down on it here, including how Monica Goodling rejected a well-qualified anti-terrorism prosecutor because of his wife’s political leanings in favor of an unqualified political crony. Shades of Brownie, anyone?

Of those figuring prominently, we see some familiar names: Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales and many others. Gonzales comes off as a clueless figurehead who had no idea what his politically motivated and Rove-installed underlings were doing. Well, I don’t buy it: he was installed precisely to allow this sort of thing to occur, and he should be held to account for allowing it at DOJ.

We discussed the ramifications of politicization at DOJ with David Iglesias earlier in the month. As David said:

You are right about US Attorneys being legal officers, not political offices. The Bush folks did not choose to understand that critical distinction.

We will all be paying the price for the Bush Administration’s willful disregard of this long-standing principle of independent integrity at DOJ. You have to wonder when and if Rove will ever be held to account for his role in this mess, that we will all be years in unravelling.

Monica Goodling was granted immunity conditioned on her not committing perjury or giving false statements to investigators or Congress. According to am e-mail I received from the HJC, that immunity may now be in jeopardy:

Today’s report describes ‘systematic’ violations of federal law by several former leaders of the Department of Justice," said Conyers. "Apparently, the political screening was so pervasive that even qualified Republican applicants were rejected from Department positions because they were ‘not Republican enough’ for Monica Goodling and others. The report also makes clear that the cost to our nation of these apparent crimes was severe, as qualified individuals were rejected for key positions in the fight against terrorism and other critical Department jobs for no reason other than political whim. The Report also indicates that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, and Alberto Gonzales may have lied to the Congress about these matters. I have directed my staff to closely review this matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for perjury is needed.

This could get interesting. Especially if all those questions about e-mails being sent regarding staffing decisions through non-political accounts get asked and answered once and for all.In the OIG and OPR report, questions about misconduct raised include (again, from the HJC):

• Senior Bush Administration Department of Justice officials, including Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Jan Williams, and others violated federal law and committed misconduct in basing hiring decisions for career prosecutor positions, details to senior Department offices and immigration judgeships on the applicant’s political affiliations and views. (125-27)

• The report highlighted political cronyism that was “particularly damaging” in a vital counterterrorism post when a qualified expert was rejected because his wife had the wrong political affiliation. Instead a candidate was chosen that “lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues” and who other DoJ officials believed “was not qualified for the position.” (136)

• Immigration judgeships were needlessly held vacant for long periods while Department leaders sought to identify politically suitable candidates, leading to a severe backlog of immigration matters. (128)

• Monica Goodling also made false statements to the Department’s own lawyers who were defending a lawsuit regarding Immigration Judge hiring. (138)

• A current Department official, John Nowacki, prepared and circulated a press release responding to public concern about these issues that he knew was false at the time; the report recommends that Mr. Nowacki be disciplined (127-28)

• Monica Goodling refused to approve several DOJ appointments for an AUSA who Ms. Goodling believed was gay. (132-33)

For the record, Mr. Nowacki still works at DOJ, and AG Mukasey hasn’t said a peep about his status. I’ll be combing through the full PDF for more, but thus far my personal favorite moment of idiocy has to be on page 18:

After Goodling resigned, Williamson typed from memory the list of questions Goodling asked as a guide for future interviews. Among other questions, the list included the following:

Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

We found that this last question often took the form of asking the candidate to identify his or her most admired President, Supreme Court Justice, or legislator. Some candidates were asked to identify a person for all three categories. Williamson told us that sometimes Goodling asked candidates: “Why are you a Republican?”

Hmmmmm…so, do you just wake up one day and say "Instead of upholding the rule of law and not violating the Hatch Act today, I’ll just worship the President!" or what? Guess the Elle Woods of Regent Law didn’t find that even remotely troubling. Jeebus. More on this as we get it…

(YouTube of Sara Taylor’s SJC testimony about her "oath to the President" and Sen. Leahy’s schooling thereon…)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com