Internal DOJ Investigation a Surprise to Ex-Gonzales Aide

The Justice Department's former White House liaison is the subject of an internal investigation for her role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year and allegations that she inappropriately questioned candidates up for attorney jobs with the department.

On Wednesday, the department also disclosed that Monica Goodling was the subject of an internal investigation for questioning assistant U.S. attorneys about their political affiliation and opinions on political issues, a possible violation of federal law and longstanding DOJ practice.

Goodling's attorney, John Dowd, fired off a letter to the Justice Department Thursday, criticizing the department for "lack of professional courtesy," claiming he and his client only learned of the internal investigation after the Justice Department issued a press release on the matter the day before.

The timing of the move, said Dowd, "smacks of retribution and intimidation."

"What disturbs us most is that the department chose to make its announcement about Ms. Goodling in the midst of Congress's ongoing investigation into the department's ongoing affairs, and less than two weeks after the House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution authorizing the House General Counsel to apply for an order of immunity for Ms. Goodling," Dowd stated.

The House committee approved an immunity deal for Goodling after she notified Congress that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify about her activity as a Justice Department official.

Goodling, who also served as counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was also closely involved in developing the controversial plan to fire the U.S. attorneys — a move that has been a political headache for the department.

Gonzales' interim chief of staff, Chuck Rosenberg, requested that the inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility — internal watchdog groups for department lawyers — review the allegations.

Rosenberg made the request several weeks ago when he was temporarily asked to serve as Gonzales' chief of staff. The former occupant of that position, Kyle Sampson, resigned amid the fired attorneys controversy. Rosenberg has since returned to his position as the U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Virginia.

The disclosure that Goodling was the subject of the joint investigation and might have broken the law is the most recent development in the ongoing U.S. attorneys controversy.

In the statement that Goodling's attorney decried, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said, "The attorney general's interim chief of staff asked the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate an allegation that former DOJ employee Monica Goodling reviewed assistant U.S. attorney applicants for offices that were headed by interim or acting U.S. attorneys and may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review. Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the ongoing OIG/OPR investigation."

Goodling resigned her post last month.

Assistant U.S. attorneys, typically hired by the U.S. attorney in charge of a district, handle the majority of the department's prosecutions and cases.

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