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Chairs Conyers, Sánchez Consider Criminal Referral on DoJ Politicization Report

Posted on by Jesse Lee

DOJ: Former aide broke law in hiring scandal
Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press Writer – July 28, 2008

A new Justice Department report concludes that politics illegally influenced the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges, and largely lays the blame on top aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Monday’s report singles out the department’s former White House liaison, Monica Goodling, for violating federal law and Justice Department policy by discriminating against job applicants who weren’t Republican or conservative loyalists.

Read the report (pdf) >>

From the Judiciary Committee:

Conyers, Sánchez Consider Criminal Referral on DoJ Politicization Report

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez had the following response to today's Department of Justice Inspector General/Office of Personal Responsibility Report on “An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General.”

“Today’s report describes 'systematic' violations of federal law by several former leaders of the Department of Justice,” said Conyers. “Apparently, the political screening was so pervasive that even qualified Republican applicants were rejected from Department positions because they were 'not Republican enough' for Monica Goodling and others. The report also makes clear that the cost to our nation of these apparent crimes was severe, as qualified individuals were rejected for key positions in the fight against terrorism and other critical Department jobs for no reason other than political whim. The Report also indicates that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, and Alberto Gonzales may have lied to the Congress about these matters. I have directed my staff to closely review this matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for perjury is needed.”

“The House Judiciary Committee's investigation into the politicization of the Department of Justice has been criticized by the Minority as a fishing expedition that has caught no fish,” said Sánchez. “This report, which found that Monica Goodling and many other Justice Department officials committed misconduct by violating both federal law and Department policy, adds to a growing public record that this Administration has tainted our system of justice.”

The report, released today by the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility found:

” Senior Bush Administration Department of Justice officials, including Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, Jan Williams, and others violated federal law and committed misconduct in basing hiring decisions for career prosecutor positions, details to senior Department offices and immigration judgeships on the applicant’s political affiliations and views. (125-27)

” The report highlighted political cronyism that was “particularly damaging” in a vital counterterrorism post when a qualified expert was rejected because his wife had the wrong political affiliation. Instead a candidate was chosen that “lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues” and who other DoJ officials believed “was not qualified for the position.” (136)

” Immigration judgeships were needlessly held vacant for long periods while Department leaders sought to identify politically suitable candidates, leading to a severe backlog of immigration matters. (128)

” Monica Goodling also made false statements to the Department’s own lawyers who were defending a lawsuit regarding Immigration Judge hiring. (138)

” A current Department official, John Nowacki, prepared and circulated a press release responding to public concern about these issues that he knew was false at the time; the report recommends that Mr. Nowacki be disciplined (127-28)

” Monica Goodling refused to approve several DOJ appointments for an AUSA who Ms. Goodling believed was gay. (132-33)

Excerpts from the Report:

“The evidence also showed that Goodling considered political or ideological affiliations when recommending and selecting candidates for other permanent career positions, including a career SES position in the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) and AUSA positions. These actions violated federal law and Department policy, and also constituted misconduct.” (136)

“Goodling's use of political considerations in connection with these details was particularly damaging to the Department because it resulted in high-quality candidates for important details being rejected in favor of less-qualified candidates. For example, an experienced career terrorism prosecutor was rejected by Goodling for a detail to EOUSA to work on counterterrorism issues because of his wife's political affiliations. Instead, EOUSA had to select a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues and who EOUSA officials believed was not qualified for the position.” (136)

“[W]e believe it was improper, and violated the law and Department policy, for Goodling to use political or ideological affiliations in selecting or rejecting detailees to these positions.” (136)

“[T]he evidence showed that Sampson, Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy, and Sampson and Goodling committed misconduct, by considering political and ideological affiliations in soliciting and selecting IJs [Immigration Judge], which are career positions protected by the civil service laws.” (137)

“We also concluded that Goodling committed misconduct when she provided inaccurate information to a Civil Division attorney who was defending a lawsuit brought by an unsuccessful IJ candidate. Goodling told the attorney that she did not take political factors into consideration in connection with IJ hiring, which was not accurate.” (138)

“The evidence detailed above demonstrates that Kyle Sampson, Jan Williams, and Monica Goodling each violated Department of Justice policy and federal law by considering political or ideological affiliations in soliciting and evaluating candidates for IJs, which are Schedule A career positions, not political appointments. Further, the evidence demonstrates that their violations were not isolated instances but were systematic in nature. The evidence demonstrates further that Goodling violated Department policy and federal law by considering political or ideological affiliations in selecting candidates for the BIA.” (115)

“Elston said that Goodling made it clear to him that she did not want Democrats detailed to the ODAG because she had a 'farm system' approach to filling vacancies in the Department, and she wanted to 'credential' Republicans so that they could move on to higher political positions. Elston also stated that there were some Republicans that Goodling did not want to hire as detailees because they were not 'Republican enough.' ” (47-48)

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