Caught In The Buzzsaw

by digby

TPM highlights this interesting profile of our little friend Monica Goodling at She is, as Pach at FDL pointed out last night, a protege of recent Libby flack Barbara Comstock, the best GOP oppo character assassin since Don Segretti. Comstock brought Goodling with her into the Justice department after their stint ended as RNC oppo "researchers."

Comstock is a very special operative, involved in the seamiest of hit jobs over the last decade. That she was allowed anywhere near the federal legal apparatus is shocking in itself:

Comstock...was viewed with suspicion by many career employees as someone more apt to look out for the personal interests of the Attorney General and political interests of the Republican party during her tenure, three Department officials said in interviews.

While at the RNC, Comstock was in charge of the Republican party’s “opposition research.” Prior to that, she was investigative counsel of the House Committee on Government Reform, then chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.). Burton broke precedent with his predecessors who focused on the workings of government agencies, to instead focus almost exclusively on investigations of then President Clinton.

She was in the middle of the Plame leak when she was a Justice and inside the department was widely considered one of the reasons that Ashcroft had to recuse himself:

Several senior federal law enforcement officials in recent days have spoken privately among themselves of what they believe to be an increasing necessity by Attorney General John Ashcroft to formally recuse himself from any further role in the probe as to who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Their concerns have intensified as investigators have begun to interview a number of personal friends and political associates of Ashcroft.

That belief among the senior law enforcement officials has only intensified in recent days since as many as a half-dozen White House officials have been asked by federal investigators about contacts they had with the Republican National Committee and conservative political activists. Investigators apparently are looking at whether the contacts were aimed at discrediting Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

So, the political operative/Justice Department nexus has been a subject of some consternation for some time in DOJ circles.

Today the Washington Post shows that "Brownies" were baked in to the Justice Department all over the place:

About one-third of the nearly four dozen U.S. attorney's jobs that have changed hands since President Bush began his second term have been filled by the White House and the Justice Department with trusted administration insiders.

The people chosen as chief federal prosecutors on a temporary or permanent basis since early 2005 include 10 senior aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, according to an analysis of government records. Several came from the White House or other government agencies. Some lacked experience as prosecutors or had no connection to the districts in which they were sent to work, the records and biographical information show.

The new U.S. attorneys filled vacancies created through natural turnover in addition to the firings of eight prosecutors last year that have prompted a political uproar and congressional investigations.

No other administration in contemporary times has had such a clear pattern of filling chief prosecutors' jobs with its own staff members, said experts on U.S. attorney's offices. Those experts said the emphasis in appointments traditionally has been on local roots and deference to home-state senators, whose support has been crucial to win confirmation of the nominees.

The pattern from Bush's second term suggests that the dismissals were half of a two-pronged approach: While getting rid of prosecutors who did not adhere closely to administration priorities, such as rigorous pursuit of immigration violations and GOP allegations of voter fraud, White House and Justice officials have seeded federal prosecutors' offices with people on whom they can depend to carry out the administration's agenda.


As Congress pursues its investigation, some Democrats have indicated they want to explore who has been hired, in addition to the firings that have been the focal point of hearings on Capitol Hill -- and of calls from both parties for Gonzales to resign.

"If we have eight U.S. attorneys dismissed because they were not 'loyal Bushies,' then how many of the remaining U.S. attorneys are?" asked Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), borrowing a phrase that Gonzales's former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, used in an internal e-mail to describe criteria by which prosecutors were chosen to be fired.

And that brings us back to Ms Goodling:

Interviews for U.S. Attorney replacements took place with only a handful of people: David Margolis, the department's top-ranking career official and a 40-plus year veteran; a member of the White House Counsel's Office; the head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys; and Goodling.

Charles Miller, whom Gonzales appointed as interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, interviewed with the panel in the fall of 2005. "They asked me what I'd done to support the president," Miller says. It wasn't a question Miller expected. He told them he'd voted for Bush.

But a former prosecutor who did not get a U.S. Attorney post was left with a sour feeling after his interview in 2006. "Monica was in charge, in essence, of the interview," recalls the former supervisory assistant U.S. Attorney. "I walked out of that room and thought, 'Wow, I've just run into a buzz saw.'"

And again, what were the Pat Robertson' U grad Goodling's primary qualifications before joining the Department of Justice? She worked with Barbara Comstock and Timothy Griffin (the US Attorney from Arkansas who Rove pushed through under the patriot act) at the Bush Cheney oppo research department in 2000.

It doesn't automatically make her a criminal, but it sure stinks of unethical politicization of the Justice Department.

I heard Orrin Hatch filibuster for what seemed like hours this morning on Meet the Press about how there wasn't a "shred of evidence" that there was any wrongdoing. Well, except for the totally unethical phone calls by Domenichi and Iglesias and the US Attorneys' publicly stated suspicion that they were let go for partisan political reasons, I suppose not. But they need to lay off the tequila if they actually expect to get the benefit of the doubt about their good intentions after they populated the Justice Department with dirty tricksters in extremely sensitive jobs.

Many of us were told to pipe down when we complained that the Justice Department and the NSA had been involved in spying on Americans with no oversight. But now that we know that Barbara Comstock, Monica Goodling and Tim Griffin, Karl Rove's personal smear artists, were promoted to the highest reaches of the federal police agencies with access to records on their political opponents and every other American, then it's clear that we weren't suspicious enough. At this point, I think we have to assume that with these people in charge and having the use of all the new powers of the Patriot Act, there have been no limits at all on the partisan, political use of the government's investigative powers.

I am no longer confused about why Monica Goodling took the fifth. I have little doubt that there are many crimes that took place and she's not taking any chances. This is bigger than the US Attorney scandal.