Monday, March 26, 2007

Gonzales Aide Won't Answer Questions About Prosecutor Firings

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Monica Goodling, a counsel to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who helped coordinate the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys, will invoke her constitutional right not to answer Senate questions about the firings, her lawyer said.

Goodling, one of four Justice Department officials the agency said could be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, will invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege not to answer the panel's questions, John M. Dowd, her lawyer, said in a statement. Dowd said the committee had requested her testimony under oath.

``The hostile and questionable environment in the present congressional proceedings is at best ambiguous; more accurately the environment can be described as legally perilous for Ms. Goodling,'' Dowd said in a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the panel. Dowd cited statements by senators accusing the Justice Department of misleading Congress.

The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether the firings were carried out for improper political purposes, such as interfering with criminal investigations.

Goodling, 33, has served as a Justice Department spokeswoman and as an aide to Gonzales, where she functioned as a liaison with the White House.

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