Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Immunity Game

The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. John Conyers, is considering granting Monica Goodling immunity in return for her testimony in the investigation into the firings of eight US Attorneys, according to an AP article published in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. She has already made it clear that she will invoke her Fifth Amendment rights if forced to testify.

Monica Goodling, once Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' White House liaison, would be granted immunity from prosecution and forced to testify under a plan being considered by a House panel probing the firings of federal prosecutors.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said Tuesday that Goodling, who has refused to testify, has much to contribute to the investigation.

Ms Goodling's attorney has urged her to take this stance, he has stated, because he feared that the call to testify was nothing more than a "perjury trap." That's an interesting statement for several reasons. Many of us assumed that Ms Goodling's raising of her Fifth Amendment rights implied she knew that some of her actions might be unlawful. Her attorney suggests, however, that her concerns are that she is being set up for an unfair perjury charge in what may be devolve into a "he said-she said" conflict as various witnesses testify.

Rep. Conyers is obviously considering the immunity grant because he believes her testimony might be key to his investigation. I've never been a huge fan of immunity for testimony deals because it allows wrong-doers to get away without facing the legal consequences of their actions. Ms. Goodling might be a minor player in what is beginning to look like a GOP take-over of the Justice Department, but she should still be held accountable. That she might implicate the bigger fish (Alberto Gonzales and/or Karl Rove) is a tempting argument, but, at least at this point, I'm still not convinced of the wisdom of the move.

Of course, all of this might be moot. The article reminds us that the granting of immunity requires a two-thirds majority vote by the committee. There are 22 Democrats and 17 Republicans on the committee, and the Republicans have already made it clear that they aren't interested.

Come on, Rep. Conyers, issue the subpoena and haul Ms. Goodling down to the hearing room and force her to assert her Fifth Amendment rights to each and every question.



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