Department officials broke the law by letting Bush
administration politics dictate the hiring of prosecutors,
immigration judges, and other career government
lawyers, according to an internal investigation
For nearly two
years, top advisers to then-Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs
who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists, the
Justice report found.
At times, their
search for GOP activists to fill judgeships threatened to
clog courts and potentially delay deportation
of illegal immigrants, the report said.
government makes a distinction between "career" and
"political" appointees, and it's against civil service laws
and Justice Department policy to hire career employees
on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.
Goodling, who served as Gonzales's counselor and White House
liaison, routinely asked career job applicants about
politics, the report concluded.
"What is it about
George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"
Goodling asked at least some candidates, according to the
joint investigation by Justice's Office of Inspector
General and Office of Professional Responsibility.
Others were asked about their views on abortion and
"It appeared that
these topics were discussed as a result of the
question seeking information about how the applicant would
characterize the type of conservative they were," the
Michael Mukasey, who succeeded Gonzales, said he was "of
course disturbed" by the findings. He said he would make
sure "that the conduct described in this report does
not occur again at the department."
was one of several examining accusations that White
House political meddling drove prosecution, policy, and
employment decisions within the once fiercely
independent Justice Department. Those charges were
spurred initially by the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in
2006 and culminated with Gonzales's resignation under fire
as attorney general last September.
unaware of the political hiring process outlined by
Goodling and his then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, the
report said. Gonzales, who has kept a low profile
since leaving the department, said in a statement
Monday that "political considerations should play no
part in the hiring of career officials at the Department of
Justice.... I agree with the report's recommendations."
report does not indicate whether Goodling or Sampson could
face any charges. None of those involved in the
discriminatory hiring still work at Justice, meaning
they will avoid any departmental penalties.
Democrats took aim, raising the possibility they would
seek prosecution on a number of fronts. Charges could
include lying to lawmakers for giving sworn testimony
that contradicts Monday's findings.
"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," House
Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.)
said. "I have directed my staff to closely review this
matter and to consider whether a criminal referral for
perjury is needed."
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said "it is crystal clear that the law
was broken" by the political hiring process.
"But since it is
unlikely that Monica Goodling acted on her own,"
Schumer added, "the question is, How many others were
The joint report
largely focused on Goodling's role in commandeering the
hiring process between March 2005 and April 2007, when she
In one instance,
Justice investigators found, Goodling objected to hiring
an assistant prosecutor in Washington because "judging from
his resume, he appeared to be a liberal
In another, she
rejected an experienced terror prosecutor to work on
counterterror issues at a Justice Department headquarters
office "because of his wife's political affiliations,"
the report said. It also said she rejected at least
one job applicant who was rumored to be a lesbian.
former Republican National Committee researcher with little
experience as a prosecutor, admitted in House Judiciary
Committee testimony last year that she "crossed the
lines" while hiring Justice career employees. She
received immunity for her testimony, meaning she
cannot be prosecuted unless it is proved that she lied while
John Dowd, called it "outrageous" to accuse Goodling
of lying to Congress.
attempting to conceal information, Ms. Goodling went to
great lengths to provide the Congress with relevant facts,
including important information about matters that had
not yet come to the public's attention," Dowd said in
Details about the
hiring of immigration judges and other career attorneys
became known only because of her May 2007 testimony, Dowd
investigators concluded that the White House Office of
Political Affairs recommended a majority of the
immigration judge candidates that Sampson and Goodling
considered hiring, including one name forwarded by
Bush's top adviser at the time, Karl Rove. Sampson has said
he initially believed politics could be considered for
filling those jobs, and the report shows Goodling
researched applicants' GOP bona fides, including
campaign contributions and voter registration records.
Brad Berenson, described his client's hiring decisions
as an honest mistake. Berenson said Sampson "immediately
agreed with the recommendation to put a stop to this
process" when he first learned he may have been wrong.
received high marks for having attended a "very
Republican school," the report notes, but also was faulted
for what Goodling called "Cons. On God, guns and
Goodling's screening process created a backlog for
immigration courts amid their increased workload. At
one point, as many as 25 immigration judge slots
needed to be filled, the report noted.
In a July 25,
2006, e-mail, one Justice official complained about the
slowdown, saying eight vacancies "have been sitting with
Monica (and sitting, and sitting and...)."
spokesman Tony Fratto played down the report, saying,
"There really is not a lot new here." (Laura Jakes Jordan,