Did Gonzales coach a witness?

Goodling on the attorney general: "I just didn't know if this was a conversation that we should be having"

Published May 23, 2007 8:01PM (EDT)

Shortly before leaving the Justice Department in mid-March, Monica Goodling met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She was upset. She was seeking a job transfer. At that point, the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was in full swing. It was assumed that everyone involved would be asked to testify before Congress. But Gonzales nonetheless wanted to speak with her about her recollection of the events that led to the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. It was a private conversation.

"I did not know if it was appropriate for us both to be having this conversation," Goodling testified Wednesday.

So what did Gonzales say to Goodling? He told her about his recollection of events, specifically that he believed that nothing inappropriate had occurred. "He just said that he thought that everybody that was on the list was on the list for a performance-related reason," Goodling testified. "He proceeded to say, 'Let me tell you what I can remember,' and he laid out for me his general recollection of some of the process regarding the replacement of U.S. attorneys."

"Do you think, Ms. Goodling, that the attorney general was trying to shape your recollection?" asked Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.

"No," Goodling said. "I just didn't know if this was a conversation that we should be having."

Update: On April 19, Gonzales testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had not spoken with "witnesses" to the U.S. attorneys scandal because he did not want to give the appearance of influencing their testimony.

"I'm here to provide what I know, what I recall as to the truth in order to help the Congress help to complete the record," he said. "But there are clearly some things that I don't know about what happened, and it's frustrating to me, as head of the department, to know that -- to not know that still today. But I haven't done -- I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations."

By Michael Scherer

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

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