In a damaging revelation made late in her testimony today, Monica Goodling disclosed that right before she took a leave of absence from the Department of Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales personally attempted to shape her future testimony to Congress about the U.S. attorney purge.
Describing it as an “uncomfortable” conversation, Goodling claimed that in a personal meeting with Gonzales, he “laid out for me his general recollection…of some of the process…regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.” After he had “laid out a little bit of it,” Gonzales asked Goodling if she “had any reaction to his iteration.” She then added:
I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) asked her if she felt the Attorney General was trying to “shape your recollection,” to which she replied “no.” But Goodling acknowledged she was “uncomfortable” with the conversation. Watch it:
Gonzales’ conversation with Goodling took place on either March 14th or 15th, a week after “the House Judiciary Committee requested that Goodling testify before the committee.” Goodling’s testimony indicates that the Attorney General may have crossed “into a borderline area of coaching a likely witness before the eventual testimony.” More importantly, Gonzales’ attempts to coach a witness could potentially be viewed as an obstruction of justice. Here’s 18 USC section 1505:
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress–
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
Yet another example of why there is “no confidence” in Alberto Gonzales.
GOODLING: I had decided that I couldn’t continue working on his staff because of the circumstances. I felt that I was somewhat paralyzed. I just felt like I — I was distraught. And I felt that I wanted to make a transfer.
So I went back to ask him if it would be possible for me to transfer out of his office. He said that he would need to think about that. And I think he was, you know, trying to, you know, just trying to chat. I was on his staff. But he then proceeded to say, Let me tell you what I can remember. And he kind of — he laid out for me his general recollection of…
DAVIS: Recollection of what, Ms. Goodling?
GOODLING: Of some of the process. DAVIS: Some of the process regarding what?
GOODLING: Some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys. And he — he just — he laid out a little bit of it, and then he asked me if he thought — if I had any reaction to his iteration.
And I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point, and so I just didn’t. As far as I can remember, I just didn’t respond.
.GOODLING: And so I just didn’t. As far as I can remember, I just didn’t respond.
JACKSON-LEE: The time of the gentleman has expired. We now recognize the distinguished gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Gutierrez for five minutes.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you very much.
I would like to yield my time to Mr. Davis.
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Gutierrez.
Had you finished your answer, Ms. Goodling, regarding your conversation with the attorney general?
GOODLING: I think there was a little bit more to the discussion, but I’m having trouble remembering it.
DAVIS: Well, let me try to help you a little bit. I know it’s been a long day, and so let me try to help you a little bit.
You said that you thought part of the conversation was inappropriate with the attorney general. Did you say that, Ms. Goodling?
GOODLING: I don’t know if I said — I didn’t know if I meant to say inappropriate. I said it made me a little uncomfortable.
DAVIS: What was it that made you uncomfortable about your conversation with the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales.
GOODLING: I just — I did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened, and I just thought maybe we shouldn’t have that conversation.
GOODLING: So I didn’t respond to what he said.
DAVIS: Why did you think it might be inappropriate for you to have this conversation with the attorney general?
GOODLING: I just knew that, at some point, we would probably all have to talk about our conversations and I just — I’m not saying that I — I’m not saying that I definitely thought it was inappropriate. I think, in all fairness, that he was just talking to someone on his staff and I was distraught and I was asking for a transfer. And I think he was being kind. He’s a very kind man. But I just didn’t know that I thought that maybe this was a conversation that we should be having.
DAVIS: Ms. Goodling, did you tell the attorney general that you felt that part of his testimony, or part of his public statements, were not fully accurate.
GOODLING: No, I didn’t.
DAVIS: And was there a reason why you didn’t share with the attorney general that part of what he had said to the committee or the public might not be accurate?
GOODLING: I just — I feel like it — I feel like after he had the press conference, people came out fairly soon and said that they thought the statements were inaccurate. I don’t think that I needed to do that. I think that other people had already raised questions about that.
DAVIS: Do you think the attorney general appreciated that he had made statements that were not accurate?
GOODLING: I don’t know.
DAVIS: Did you ask him?
GOODLING: No, I didn’t.
DAVIS: Do you think the attorney general would have been concerned about making public statements that were not accurate?
GOODLING: I don’t know what he — I know that he testified before the Senate, and he clarified his remarks from his press conference. So I believe he cared about the fact that he didn’t express everything in the best way that he could. And I think he’s already apologized for that and tried to clarify it.
DAVIS: Let me ask you this, Ms. Goodling: During the conversation that you’ve said made you somewhat uncomfortable with the attorney general, did the attorney general discuss the circumstances around any of the terminations of the U.S. attorneys?
GOODLING: He discussed a little bit.
As I recall, he just said that he thought that everybody that was on the list was on the list for a performance-related reason, and that he had been upset with the deputy because he thought that the deputy had indicated that — by testifying about Mr. Cummins, that there was — that the only reason there was to relieve him in order to give Mr. Griffin a chance to serve.
He said that he thought, when he heard that, that that was wrong, that he really thought that Mr. Cummins was on the list because there was a performance reason there, too.
And — I think there was more to the discussion. That’s the part I’m remembering right now. But I think he just kind of laid out what he remembered and what he thought. And then he asked me if I had any reaction to it. DAVIS: Do you know — let me ask you this way. You say the attorney general asked if you had any reaction to what he said.
Do you think, Ms. Goodling, the attorney general was trying to shape your recollection?
GOODLING: No. I think he was just asking if I had any different…
DAVIS: But it made you uncomfortable.
GOODLING: I just did not know if it was a conversation that we should be having, and so I just — just didn’t say anything.