Judiciary Committee Approves Immunity for Goodling

April 25, 2007
Blog
From the Judiciary Committee:

House Judiciary Committee Approves Immunity Order, Authorizes Subpoena for former DoJ Official Monica Goodling

(Washington, DC)- Today, the House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena and voted in support of seeking a judicial order of immunity to compel testimony for former Justice Department-White House Liaison Monica Goodling. The immunity order required a two-thirds vote of the Committee - 32 Members voted in support, six voted against and two were not present.

Chairman John Conyers gave opening remarks at the meeting:

Chairman Conyers:

"As Chairman of the Committee, I want to again assure the Members that I do not propose this step lightly. I believe we have been proceeding with appropriate care at each step of the way so as to carefully consider the implications for all interests at stake -- the constitutional interests of the Legislative and Executive Branches, and the interest of the American people in having a government in whose integrity they can confidently place their trust."

Full transcript of Chairman Conyers' remarks:

We will first turn to the two items remaining on our agenda from last week, involving Monica Goodling and our continuing investigation into the circumstances surrounding the terminations of U.S. Attorneys, the representations that have been made to Congress regarding those circumstances, and related matters.

There are two resolutions -- one to direct the House General Counsel to apply for a court order that would permit the Committee to give Ms. Goodling use immunity for testimony and related information she provides under compulsion to us, and the other to authorize the issuance of a subpoena for Ms. Goodling. Pursuant to notice, I call up first the resolution regarding use immunity.

We had a good discussion of this matter last week, when we decided, at the request of our Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Smith, to postpone voting on the resolutions to permit us all to gain a little more familiarity and comfort with the immunity procedure and to speak informally with the Department of Justice. We have done that this week, and based on that meeting, I believe it is prudent that we proceed with the process of considering immunity for Ms. Goodling.

Allow me to briefly recount how we have come to this point.

The matters we have been examining go to the very heart of the public's ability to rely on the integrity of our legal system, and we have been working diligently to get to the truth. We have encountered some obstacles, and we are working to overcome them. We have been working closely with our Minority in all of these efforts, and we appreciate their support.

We have a subpoena pending with the Justice Department for e-mails and related information, which the Department has thus far only partially complied with, but we continue to be in discussions with the Department regarding their compliance. We have requested interviews with a number of current and former high-level Department officials, and those interviews are being scheduled and conducted.

We have asked the White House for information, and for interviews with selected current and former White House officials who appear, based on information we have obtained thus far, to be significantly involved in the decisionmaking. As of yet, the White House has not been forthcoming, but we continue to hope and expect that we will reach an accommodation with them.

It is against this backdrop that we consider Monica Goodling, who recently resigned from her position as senior counsel to the Attorney General. Among her duties in that position was serving as the Justice Department's principal liaison with the White House.

She was apparently involved in crucial discussions over a two-year period with senior White House aides, and with other senior Justice officials, in which the termination list was developed, refined, and finalized. She was also in the small group of senior Justice lawyers who prepared Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and his Principal Associate, William Moschella, for congressional testimony that we believe inaccurately portrayed the surrounding circumstances.

So Ms. Goodling appears to be a key witness for us, as to any possible undue or improper interference, and as to any internal discussions as to how forthcoming to be to Congress. But she has notified the Committee that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination were she called to testify. And I don't think at this point that all of her potential grounds for invoking the privilege can be dismissed out of hand.

Under these circumstances, it would appear that the Committee has exhausted all reasonable efforts to obtain Ms. Goodling's critical information short of providing her with limited use immunity under the applicable statute, 18 U.S.C. 6005.

Taking this step will compel her to testify, under penalty of contempt, but under the protection that information she provides to us under compulsion could not be used against her for any prosecution, as long as the information is truthful.

Under the statute, we direct the House General Counsel to apply to the court for an order conferring use immunity. The statute provides for notice to the Department of Justice and a waiting period so that the Department can advise the Committee as to whether conferring immunity on Ms. Goodling would interfere with any ongoing or expected criminal investigation involving her. We will certainly take any concerns the Department may choose to provide us into account.

As Chairman of the Committee, I want to again assure the Members that I do not propose this step lightly. I believe we have been proceeding with appropriate care at each step of the way so as to carefully consider the implications for all interests at stake -- the constitutional interests of the Legislative and Executive Branches, and the interest of the American people in having a government in whose integrity they can confidently place their trust.

Considering all those interests, I believe it is appropriate for us to now begin the legal process for enabling us to secure Ms. Goodling's testimony over her expected Fifth Amendment assertion. We will promptly notify the Justice Department of our application, which under the statute gives the Department a set period -- from ten to thirty days, at their discretion -- to advise us as to possible implications for any criminal investigation they may be conducting or contemplating.

I also want to emphasize that the step we are taking fully preserves all the Committee's prerogatives to proceed or not as further developments warrant. If we learn something new in the course of our investigation that gives us pause, we can always stop the process before the court issues an order.

Even after the order is issued, it does not take effect unless we use it to compel testimony from Ms. Goodling over her Fifth Amendment assertion. And I can assure all of the Members that we will not take that step unless it appears, considering all factors, the appropriate step to take in the exercise of our oversight responsibilities.