Justice Department Approves Immunity for White House Liaison

May 7, 2007 12:32pm

ABC News’ Jason Ryan Reports: The Justice Department notified the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that it would not object to granting immunity to a key figure in the ongoing U.S. Attorney controversy. Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s former White House liaison, is the subject of an internal Justice Department investigation for her role in the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. Besides the scrutiny from the ongoing Congressional investigation, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an internal watchdog on Department lawyers, and the Inspector General are conducting a joint investigation.

The House Judiciary 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.

The joint letter from the Inspector General and the top lawyer in OPR notes, "[the] investigation is in its early stages, and we intend to take the investigation wherever it leads. As in any investigation that potentially could involve evidence of criminal conduct, we would prefer that any potential subject not be granted immunity at this stage of the investigation."

"However, we understand the Committee’s interest in obtaining Ms. Goodling’s testimony. Therefore, after balancing the significant public interest against the impact of the Committee’s actions on our ongoing investigation, we will not raise an objection," the letter from the Inspector General Glenn Fine and OPR head Marshall Jarrett notes.

In a statement House Judiciary Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said, "I believe obtaining her testimony will be a critical step in our efforts to get to the truth about the circumstances surrounding the U.S. Attorney firings and possible politicization in the Department’s prosecutorial function. The Committee will be moving expeditiously to apply for the court order so that we can schedule a hearing promptly."

Last week the Department revealed that the Inspector General and the OPR were investigating allegations that Goodling was involved in the hiring of career prosecutors.  Goodling is alleged to have asked Assistant U.S. Attorneys about their political affiliation and opinions about political issues, and she resigned from her Justice Department job last month.  Attorney General Gonzales is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to testify as to why the prosecutors were fired.

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