The return of "Monica Goodling" by @BloggersRUs

The return of "Monica Goodling"

by Tom Sullivan

Was Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) really suggesting what he seemed to be suggesting?

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz figgeted during Graham's 40-minute rant to open the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his findings on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Graham was on a roll, one he continued as the hearing unfolded.

Graham, the committee chair, read emails from FBI staff critical of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and asked repeatedly whether FBI members up and down the investigative team had political bias "that reeked" influencing their decisions.

Horowitz said he found none. Graham was unfazed:

You did a great job. The old adage is if you wake up and the lawn is wet, you can assume it rained. If you’ve got a guy who hates Trump’s guts from day one, thinks Pence is stupid and everybody who voted for Trump’s a idiot, and you give him power over Trump, maybe you’re making a mistake. Or again, maybe all these people who had these biases did nothing about it. Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. We know what they did.
Graham's bias-hunt implied people with strong political opinions (like him) cannot do their jobs in an honest, dispassionate, and professional fashion. He all but suggested there should be political litmus tests for federal officials or that only the politically neutered find employment. A lot of people in America believe Trump is an idiot and they are entitled to, Graham acknowledged, "but you shouldn’t be in the journalism business. You shouldn’t be at the FBI."

We've been down that road before. Or at least, another Republican administration has. It was another another inspector general that found political bias in Department of Justice hiring under the Bush administration in July 2008. Bush appointees had violated federal law and department policy by screening applicants for their political affiliations:
The two offices focused on the activities of Monica Goodling, the former White House liaison at DOJ under ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as well as Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, and Jan Williams, Goodling's predecessor as White House liaison.

Goodling admitted during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that her hiring decisions for some career positions at DOJ may have been influenced in part based on political consideration," including Assistant U.S. Attorneys, immigration judges and other senior career posts at Justice, but the OPR-OIG laid out in much greater detail what actually occurred.

"Our investigation found that Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and Department policy," the 140-page report states. "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 [Senior Executive Service] position in the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) and AUSA [Assistant U.S. Attorney] positions. These actions violated federal law and Department policy, and also constituted misconduct."
With his repeated inquiries about bias driving investigative decisions, complaints echoing Trump's "Deep State" conspiracy, Graham was arguing for kind of political screening last found illegal under the George W. Bush administration. Two 2018 reports from the Office of the Inspector General found wrongdoing in both DOJ's hiring practices and in the political firings of nine U.S. attorneys (September 2008).

Goodling resigned in April 2007 after pleading the Fifth Amendment and refusing to testify on the attorney firings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont. She testified in May about the firings before the House Judiciary Committee under a grant of immunity. Gonzales resigned in August.

Attacks on career government officials and the appointment of less-qualified candidates with preferred political views is an extension of practices that took down Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Trump administration is simply a restart of the "to the victor go the spoils" approach of the Bush ideologues, only more overt and with Bill Barr unlikely to resign if similar malfeasance comes to light. Clearly, political litmus tests are Graham's preference and in line with Trump's desire to root out the "Deep State" of his paranoid imaginings. Trump doesn't want competence. He wants loyalists.