In her opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee today, Monica Goodling — the Justice Department’s former White House Liason — admitted that she had “taken inappropriate political considerations into account” while hiring career employees at the Department.
Later during the hearing, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) asked Goodling whether she believed her actions had broken the law. Goodling initially tried to dodge the question, saying “that’s not a conclusion for me to make.” Scott followed up: “Do you believe that they were illegal?” Goodling again tried to squirm her way out of a straight answer, “I don’t believe I intended to commit a crime.”
But Scott continued to push for a real answer, listing the various types of laws that may have been broken. He again asked Goodling, “Were there any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account, quote, on some occasions?”
Goodling eventually relented, admitting, “I crossed the line of the civil service rules.” Scott clarified, “Rules? Laws. You crossed the law on civil service laws. You crossed the line on civil service laws, is that right?” She said, “I believe I crossed the lines. But I didn’t mean to.” Watch it:
UPDATE: The Plank parses Goodling’s testimony.
SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Goodling, as you just heard, I was introduced as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime.
The criminal justice system cannot function if the public does not trust the system to be fair. We expect judges and prosecutors to strictly follow the rule of law. We expect witnesses in criminal cases, in all phases of criminal cases, to tell the truth. We expect juries to be fair and impartial.
And this won’t work if there are partisan political considerations becoming more important than fair and impartial decisions.
Unfortunately, there have been credible allegations that attorneys have been hired because of their partisan views rather than their legal backgrounds, that the culture of loyalty to the administration was more important than loyalty to the rule of law, and pressure and even firing of U.S. attorneys for failing to pursue partisan political agendas rather than the rule of law.
These allegations are serious because, if true, they can clearly undermine the confidence the public will have in the criminal justice system.
It’s been hard for us to get to the bottom of it because, when we ask simply questions, you’ve accused others of not telling the truth under oath. You in fact yourself pleaded the Fifth. So it’s been hard to get to the bottom of it.
But let me just ask a couple of questions.
In your testimony, you indicate that you have — quote, may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions.
Do you believe that those political considerations were not just inappropriate, but in fact illegal?
GOODLING: That’s not a conclusion for me to make.
I know I was acting…
SCOTT: (inaudible) Do you believe that they were legal or illegal for you to take those political considerations in mind? Not whether they were legal or illegal, what do you believe? Do you believe that they were illegal?
GOODLING: I don’t believe I intended to commit a crime.
SCOTT: Did you break the law? Was it against the law to take those political considerations into account?
You’ve got civil service laws. You’ve got obstruction of justice. Were there any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account, quote, on some occasions ?
GOODLING: The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.
SCOTT: Was that legal?
GOODLING: Sir, I’m not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.
SCOTT: What line — legal?
GOODLING: I crossed the line of the civil service rules.
SCOTT: Rules? Laws. You crossed the law on civil service laws. You crossed the line on civil service laws, is that right?
GOODLING: I believe I crossed the lines. But I didn’t mean to. I mean, I…