Gonzales vs. Gonzales

In the final act of her testimony, Monica Goodling seems to contradict earlier statements from the attorney general.

Published May 23, 2007 10:51PM (EDT)

For the final act of Monica Goodling's day under oath, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., read into the record testimony Alberto Gonzales delivered to the House Judiciary Committee just two weeks ago. "I have not gone back and spoken directly with Mr. [Kyle] Sampson and others who were involved in this process," Gonzales told the committee on May 10. "In order to protect the integrity of this investigation and of the investigation of the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of Inspector General -- I am a fact witness, they are fact witnesses, and in order to preserve the integrity of those investigations, I have not asked these specific questions."

Just minutes earlier Goodlinghad described an uncomfortable conversation she had with Gonzales in mid-March, which seemed to contradict the Gonzales testimony. Now Davis turned the questions on Goodling. "Ms. Goodling, did the Attorney General have a conversation with you regarding the terminations of United States attorneys?"

Goodling: Yes, he did.

Davis: And when did this conversation happen?

Goodling: It was in March, before I left the department.

Davis: Did you know you might be a fact witness at that point, Ms. Goodling?

Goodling: Yes.

Immediately after the hearing, Davis talked with reporters, offering his verdict. "It's very clear that the attorney general was not fully accurate in his testimony," Davis said. "It was an inappropriate conversation on the attorney general's own terms."

Outside the hearing room, Republicans were spinning hard in the other direction. "There were no surprises here today," said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. "There was absolutely nothing here that hurt the attorney general," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. "This is fools gold out there."

But Republicans no longer get to determine what is real treasure and what is bunk. The Democrats control Congress. House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., promised much more to come. When asked if he would recommend a criminal investigation into possible perjury and obstruction of justice by top Justice Department officials, he only smiled. "Stay tuned," he said.

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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