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Report: DOJ Aides Allowed Politics to Guide Hiring Decisions

A Justice Department report released Monday concludes that former top agency officials broke the law by weighing applicants' political leanings when making hiring decisions. Experts examine the findings.

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    The Justice Department report makes clear aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by using political criteria in hiring decisions. The 140-page independent report stems from the investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys in 2006.

    Today's report focuses on the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges and points to the actions of two aides in particular: Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Gonzales; and Monica Goodling, she was a chief liaison between the Justice Department and the White House.

    Goodling was questioned about her role in hiring career attorneys at a House Judiciary Committee meeting last year.

    REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D), Virginia: Were there any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account, quote, "on some occasions"?

  • MONICA GOODLING, Former Justice Department Official:

    The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.


    Was that legal?


    Sir, I'm not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.


    What line, legal?


    I crossed the line of the civil service rules.


    Today's report expands on Goodling's admission, saying she improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and department policy.

    The report also found Goodling and Sampson screened candidates by researching their political contributions and voter registration records.

    While the report dealt specifically with hiring, Goodling and Sampson were also involved in firing the eight U.S. attorneys. All were political appointees allegedly let go for political reasons.

    Among the eight were California's Carol Lam, who prosecuted Republican Randy Cunningham for bribery in 2005, and New Mexico's David Iglesias, who was pressured to speed up investigations into Democratic corruption.

  • ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. Attorney General:

    I acknowledge that mistakes were made here.


    That controversy contributed to the calls for the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales, who stepped down a year ago.

    His replacement, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, said he was "disturbed" by today's findings. He released a statement, saying, "It's neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career department employees. And I have acted and will continue to act to ensure that my words are translated into reality so that the conduct described in this report does not occur again at the department."

    Today's report urges the Justice Department to clarify rules about the criteria that may be used to assess career attorney candidates.