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Goodling Appears Before House Panel, Denies Misleading McNulty

In long-awaited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, former Justice Department aide Monica Goodling said Wednesday that ex-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was aware of White House involvement in the plan to fire U.S. attorneys, and that he gave “incomplete” and “inaccurate” initial testimony to Congressional investigators that helped spark the probe into the firings.

The former Justice Department liaison to the White House and counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said she had adequately briefed McNulty prior to his testimony. She said she never spoke with presidential aide Karl Rove or former White House counsel Harriet Miers about the controversial firing of nine of the federal prosecutors in 2006. Goodling resigned from Justice after the scandal broke.

“I did not hold the keys to that kingdom,” Goodling said. “I was not the primary White House contact for purposes of the development or approval of the U.S. attorney replacement plan.”

But Goodling admitted to improperly using political criteria in judging whether to hire lower-ranking federal prosecutors for non-political jobs. The Justice Department is conducting an internal probe into such charges.

“I know I crossed the line. I crossed the line of the civil service rules,” Goodling conceded under questioning from Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). “But I didn’t mean to.”

Before a packed hearing room, Goodling appeared composed and ready to tell her side of the story after the committee gave her limited immunity for her testimony. Goodling was the only current or former Justice Department official to invoke Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

In a quiet voice, Goodling denied misleading McNulty about the extent of White House involvement in the mass firing of the prosecutors. She said she “worked diligently” to help prepare McNulty for his testimony and did not “withhold” information from him as has been suggested. McNulty has since resigned.

“That allegation is false,” Goodling stated. “I believe that the deputy was not fully candid” in his public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Goodling said McNulty had been aware of White House involvement in the firing plan, as well as White House interest in picking Tim Griffin, a former Republican National Committee aide, to replace ousted prosecutor Bud Cummins III in Eastern Arkansas.

She described riding to Capitol Hill with McNulty when he gave private testimony to Senators on Feb. 14, 2007. But she said McNulty and acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling suggested she shouldn’t attend the hearing because her post as White House liaison might engender suspicion among lawmakers.

There were no real “gotcha” moments in this morning’s testimony. But Goodling, who described herself as a “fairly quiet girl who tries to do the right thing,” said she regretted asking improper questions when hiring prosecutors.

Goodling did not shed much more light on who named names to be placed on the list of prosecutors to be fired. She testified to first seeing a copy of the list given to her by her then-boss, ex-Gonzales Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, in January 2006. She last saw the list in the Nov. 27, 2006, meeting when it was approved. She testified she was more involved in what happened after the firing plan was implemented than during its discussion.

Goodling did say she recommended Nevada prosecutor Daniel Bogden and Arizona prosecutor Paul Charlton for addition to the firing list.

Before joining Justice, Goodling, 33, worked as an opposition researcher at the Republican National Committee and is a graduate of Regent University Law School, which was founded by Pat Robertson.

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