Saturday, April 07, 2007

Rough Sailing For Gonzales

Big news today about a noteworthy alumnus of Pat Robertson's Regent University's School of Law.

A top aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales resigned on Friday, becoming another casualty of the political storm that has rocked the Justice Department in the aftermath of last year's dismissals of eight United States attorneys.

The aide, Monica Goodling, had helped to coordinate those dismissals with the White House, an episode that has provoked demands for Mr. Gonzales’s dismissal. Even Mr. Gonzales's allies, including President Bush, say the dismissals were bungled from a public relations and political standpoint.

Ms. Goodling, who has been on leave as the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, notified the Senate Judiciary Committee through her lawyer on March 26 that she would invoke her constitutional right not to testify in the panel's inquiry about the dismissals — not because she had anything to hide, the lawyer said, but because she did not expect fair treatment in the current climate of political hostility.

In a three-sentence resignation letter, Ms. Goodling wrote to Mr. Gonzales, "May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America."


Goodling's resignation also comes amid signs of sinking morale in some U.S. attorney's offices. In Minneapolis, three top managers staged a revolt Thursday, choosing to demote themselves rather than work for the newly confirmed U.S. attorney there, who is a former Gonzales aide, officials said. The department was so alarmed that it sent a Washington-based Justice official to Minneapolis this week to try to talk the three out of their plans, officials said. ...

The discontent in Minnesota centers on U.S. Attorney Rachel K. Paulose, 34, who previously worked for Gonzales and his deputy, McNulty. She is part of a wave of more than a dozen Bush administration insiders appointed as federal prosecutors over the past two years, according to government records. ...

David Schultz, a law professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., said the Minneapolis U.S. attorney's office had been relatively free of discontent in recent administrations.

"You never really hear political rumblings out of that office, so it comes as some surprise to see three people step down like this all at once," Schultz said. "It raises the question of whether attorneys are starting to become uncomfortable about the politicization that seems to be going on at Justice."

Paulose replaced veteran prosecutor Thomas B. Heffelfinger, who served as U.S. attorney under both President Bush and President George H.W. Bush. Heffelfinger abruptly resigned early last year to enter private practice.

Heffelfinger has said that he does not know whether he was slated for removal. E-mails from Sampson indicate that two U.S. attorneys targeted for dismissal resigned in early 2006; Heffelfinger is one of two who quit during that time to enter private practice. Heffelfinger declined to comment yesterday.

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