Goodling Acknowledges Politicizing Staff Picks

Monica Goodling, former Justice Department White House liaison, prepares to testify at the House i i

Monica Goodling, former Justice Department White House liaison, prepares to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Monica Goodling, former Justice Department White House liaison, prepares to testify at the House

Monica Goodling, former Justice Department White House liaison, prepares to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Scorecard: Desiree Fairooz of Arlington, Texas, keeps track.

Scorecard: Desiree Fairooz of Arlington, Texas, keeps track of the number of times that former Justice Department White House Liaison Monica Goodling says she does not remember while testifying to the House Judiciary Committee. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Justice Department's former White House liaison admitted Wednesday that she "crossed the line" in considering politics when she hired career staff members.

Monica Goodling also told a House committee investigating the firings of several U.S. attorneys that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty misled Congress when he testified that he was not aware the White House was heavily involved in the firings.

Goodling, who resigned last month, spoke publicly for the first time about the controversy. She received immunity from prosecution before testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

McNulty, who recently announced he will resign at the end of the summer, called Goodling's characterization of his testimony "wrong." He released a statement saying he testified truthfully based on what he knew at the time.

However, Goodling said she briefed the deputy attorney general about the U.S. attorneys almost every week for a year.

She said the briefings usually went long because McNulty had so many questions, and his testimony that she withheld information from him was untrue.

"That allegation is false," she said. "I did not withhold information from the deputy."

"I'm not saying that it was deliberate, but I'm saying that when I look back on (McNulty's) testimony, I believe there were a number of things I did brief him on, that that information wasn't fully revealed."

When asked how McNulty's testimony was incomplete, Goodling noted an example in which McNulty downplayed the White House's involvement in the firings. "He was aware that the (Justice) Department had worked for at least several months with the White House and that many offices in the White House had signed off," Goodling said.

After McNulty testified publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he met with committee members in private, Goodling recalled. She said she was supposed to be included in the meeting, but McNulty made it clear that she should not attend for fear that her presence would lead to questions about the White House.

Justice Department documents and testimony show that both White House political adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers played a role in the firings, but Goodling said she met only with their staffs. Instead, Rove and Miers met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his former Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson, Goodling said.

As Congress proceeds with its investigation, the Justice Department is pursuing a parallel probe into Goodling's hiring practices. During her testimony, she admitted that she considered politics when hiring career staff members.

"I believe I crossed the line, but I didn't mean to," she told the panel.

Over the months that Congress has been investigating this scandal, the beginning and end of the U.S. attorney firings have been clear. The idea originated with the White House, and the final sign-off came from the attorney general and White House counsel.

However, the construction of the actual list has always been unclear. Today's testimony did little to clear that up.

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