FBI Director Robert Mueller testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the FBI’s improper use of National Security Letters. At one point, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Mueller about the decision by Monica Goodling, counsel to Alberto Gonzales, to invoke her Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.
Mueller said that while he has not been “focused on thinking back to circumstances where it may have happened in the past,” he could not ever remember a time when a Justice Department official had taken the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying.
As the Justice Department’s White House liaison, Goodling appears to be “squarely in the middle of what appears to have been improper directions from the White House to politicize the hiring and firing of United States attorneys.” As the New York Times wrote today, her refusal to testify takes the scandal to a “new level” and compounds need for Mr. Gonzales to testify “without delay in full public view.”
– Ryan Powers
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Director. Thank you for your visit the other day, by the way.
You’ve had a very long and distinguished history in and around the Department of Justice.
Just as a matter of personal reference, can you ever recall a circumstance in which an employee of the Department of Justice has exercised their fifth amendment rights with respect to their official conduct as an employee of the Department of Justice, and remained an employee of the Department of Justice?
MUELLER: I wouldn’t have — I cannot recall, but that is because I am not certain — I am not familiar with the circumstances under which this may have come up in the past.
I know what you’re referring to, quite obviously, and I just can’t answer that.
WHITEHOUSE: I’ve never imagined that would happen. I’ve never heard of it happening before. And I was just testing your recollection.
You can’t think of it ever happening before, either, at this point?
MUELLER: I cannot. But I must say I have not focused on thinking back to circumstances where it may have happened in the past.