House Democrats: White House liaison has no right to plead Fifth
House Democrats leading the investigation into the firing of eight US Attorneys are questioning the legal strategy of a top Justice Department official.
Monica Goodling, who serves as liaison to the White House, hopes to avoid providing testimony ordered through a subpoena by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
However, in a letter sent to her attorney today and acquired by RAW STORY, Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Linda Sánchez (D-CA) suggest that Goodling doesn't have a basis to invoke that right and, therefore, shouldn't be exempted from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee.
"We are concerned that several of the asserted grounds for refusing to testify do not satisfy the well-established bases for a proper invocation of the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination," the two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee wrote. "The Fifth Amendment privilege, under long-standing Supreme Court precedents, does not provide a reason to fail to appear to testify; the privilege must be invoked by the witness on a question-by-question basis."
Goodling, who is on leave from her position as the Justice Department's White House Liaison, informed both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in recent weeks that she would invoke her rights against self-incrimination if called to testify concerning her role in the US Attorneys matter.
Conyers and Sánchez said that Goodling's concerns were not valid.
"The fact that a few Senators and Members of the House have expressed publicly their doubts about the credibility of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General in their representations to Congress about the U.S. Attorneys' termination does not in any way excuse your client from answering questions honestly and to the best of her ability," Conyers and Sánchez explained.
They were particularly critical of Goodling's concerns about finding herself in a situation comparable to former White House staff members I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and David Safavian, who were both convicted of crimes during the course of the Bush administration.
"Both of those individuals, former high-ranking officials in the Bush Administration, were found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by juries of their peers, in cases brought by Presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys, of knowingly and intentionally lying or providing false information primarily to Executive branch agents or officials," the two Democrats wrote. "If her testimony is truthful, she will have nothing to worry about in terms of a perjury prosecution."
The House Democrats are asking Goodling to promptly agree to speak with the Committee in order to provide "justification" for her intended defense.
"We write to request that your client, Ms. Goodling, voluntarily appear to be interviewed by our staff in the next week and to discuss the justification for her apparent decision to invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege," they wrote.