More testimony to condemn Gonzales

By Times editorial
Published May 27, 2007

In her congressional testimony, Monica Goodling admitted she "crossed the line" in using political tests in hiring federal prosecutors and filling career positions at the Justice Department. The line she crossed violates federal law and undermines the integrity of the department. We will say it again: It's time for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, not more damage control.

Goodling, a former Republican opposition researcher and the liaison between the White House and Justice Department when eight U.S. attorneys were forced out, testified before a House committee on Wednesday that she wore her partisan hat even when making hiring decisions that were nonpolitical by law.

Her testimony still leaves many unanswered questions about who compiled the list and made the final decisions on the U.S. attorney firings. That's why Congress should still pursue Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, as witnesses.

But Goodling's testimony sharpened our understanding of how the department became a place where party affiliation and advocacy group memberships played a large role in one's career trajectory. When evaluating candidates for department posts, Goodling admitted that she improperly investigated their political leanings and in one documented case derailed the hiring of a qualified applicant because he was too "liberal." "I took political considerations into account on some occasions ... I know I crossed the line, " Goodling told the committee.

She had been given immunity from prosecution for any wrongdoing she admitted in her testimony. Yet we now know she broke civil service laws on multiple occasions - involving, by her own account, as many as 50 jobs - and reduced the department's stature by making it a place of political rewards.

Goodling, a reluctant witness who tried to spin her testimony to benefit the administration, also admitted that Gonzales made her uncomfortable when he recited his version of events surrounding the U.S. attorney firings, after she requested a job transfer. Goodling denied it, but it sounded as though Gonzales was trying to line up their stories and impress upon her that there was an official version.

That conversation, if true, catches Gonzales in yet another misstatement to Congress. Earlier this month, Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee "to protect the integrity of this investigation" he had not spoken with any of his senior staff about the firings.

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, told Goodling that millions of Americans are "proud to have somebody like you serving in government." He must mean Americans like him, who would rather see loyal Republican ideologues in civil service posts than professionals with impeccable credentials.

As illuminating as these hearings have been so far, there is still more to discover about the politicized Justice Department and the role of the White House in the firings. Congress should keep digging.