Dems ask DoJ to set up safeguards in attorney probe

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Tuesday advised the Justice Department to set up safeguards to avoid conflicts of interest in their investigation of Monica Goodling’s role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, calling the Attorney General’s office “hopelessly conflicted.”

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the senators said the Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is chairman, will continue to investigate Goodling, a Department official who recently asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself in testimony. The senators asked to whom they should speak about Goodling’s involvement in the firings since the investigation explicitly implicates Gonzales.

“While it is premature to presume that any criminal prosecution will result from this inquiry now, it is also premature to presume one will not,” the senators wrote. “It therefore seems advisable to have discussions between the Committee and the Department regarding how to proceed with regard to Ms. Goodling. Our question to you is: Who do we talk to at the Department of Justice? The office of the Attorney General appears to be hopelessly conflicted.”

Leahy and Whitehouse went on to ask for Gonzales’s input on how to avoid a conflict of interest.

“We would appreciate hearing from you whether a special counsel is necessary for us to speak with, or how you suggest creating appropriate firewalls so that a non-conflicted person with appropriate knowledge and authority can have the customary discussions with the Committee regarding Ms. Goodling’s testimony,” they said.