Top aides to former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales employed a political and ideological litmus test to weed out candidates for career and other positions at the Justice Department, an internal department report concluded Monday.
The audit by the department’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that former Gonzales aides Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson violated department policies and federal civil-service laws.
Both Goodling and Sampson left the Justice Department last year amid the tumult surrounding the alleged politicization of its ranks under Gonzales that included the politically charged firing of nine U.S. attorneys. It was unclear whether either individual would be disciplined since they had left government.
Gonzales himself was generally unaware of his aides’ actions, and took steps to head off untoward hiring practices when he became aware of them, the report concluded. Gonzales’ lawyer issued a statement Monday saying the findings vindicate the former attorney general.
The report provides a more detailed examination of questionable moves by Goodling and others that emerged in congressional hearings last year. Goodling, after receiving a grant of congressional immunity, acknowledged before the House Judiciary Committee that she had “crossed a line” and allowed political and other impermissible factors to affect her hiring decisions.
Goodling was the White House liaison at the Justice Department; Sampson was Gonzales’ chief of staff.
The latest disclosures include a finding that Goodling rejected the application of a career terrorism prosecutor who wanted to work at Justice Department headquarters because his wife was active in local Democratic politics.
Goodling also sought out the advice of the White House and other Republicans in filling vacant immigration judge positions. Goodling — who declined to be interviewed by the authors of the report — previously testified that she believed it was legal to consider political factors in selecting judges based on advice she had received from Sampson.
The report also found that Goodling discriminated against another career department attorney who had applied for several temporary details because she was perceived to be having a lesbian relationship with a U.S. attorney. The report does not identify either of the women but says that both denied having such a relationship.
Responding to the report, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey said in a statement Monday that he was “of course disturbed” by the findings, and observed that the department had taken action to head off future abuses.
Gonzales’ attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, said the report made “two important points” about the former attorney general.