Justice Official Stunned By Extent Of White House Involvement In U.S. Attorneys Affair

Monica Goodling, a former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was so distraught about the pending release of Department of Justice documents that would detail the White House involvement in the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys that prior to their public release in March, she visited the office of a colleague, sobbing with worry that her career at the Department of Justice was over, according to the congressional testimony of that colleague, David Margolis.

Prior to the release of the documents, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told Congress that the White House had had limited involvement with the firings. Goodling served as the White House liaison to the Justice Department.

Margolis, a career official who has been with the department for more than 40 years, testified behind closed doors on May 1 that he was stunned when he learned about the extent of the White House involvement in the decision to fire the federal prosecutors, according to a source familiar with his testimony. Until confronted with the documents, he had thought that the White House had not played as large a role in the firing.

Margolis testified, according to the source, that on March 8, a shaken Goodling expressed that all she had wanted to do was to serve the president and the administration. Today, the Department of Justice confirmed that Goodling is under investigation for her role in the controversy. The House Judiciary Committee has voted to grant Goodling immunity for her testimony.

Margolis also testified that just before Goodling visited him on March 8, he had spoken with Kyle Sampson, who was then serving as the chief of staff to Attorney General Gonzales. According to a source familiar with the testimony, Margolis recounted that Sampson had with him a binder of materials that detailed the White House involvement in the firings and he read them to Margolis for 15 to 20 minutes. Margolis testified his impression was that Sampson knew that the release of the documents would create a firestorm. Margolis testified that after Sampson visited him he saw him with a binder of the same e-mails meeting with McNulty .

According to the source, Margolis said that the e-mails clearly were at odds with McNulty's testimony and that while he wasn't criticizing the role of the White House, he was surprised that it was much greater than he had originally thought.