Thursday, May 24, 2007

Former USAs respond to Goodling Testimony

TPMmuckraker May 24, 2007 03:40 PM

Since they weren't subjected to the Justice Department's vigorous Why-Did-We-Fire-Them brainstorming sessions, former U.S. attorneys Thomas Heffelfinger (Minnesota) and Todd Graves (Kansas City) got their first taste of it yesterday during Monica Goodling's testimony. They didn't like it.

Of Heffelfinger, who stepped down in February of last year (he says he resigned voluntarily, though that was just a month after he appeared on one of Kyle Sampson's firing lists), Goodling said that she'd heard he "spent an extraordinary amount of time" working on his work related to his position as chairman of the subcommittee of U.S. attorneys that deals with American Indian issues.

Heffelfinger's response: "I did spent a lot of time on it... That's what I was instructed to do [by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft]". And:

"If it's true that people within the Department of Justice were critical of the amount of time I was spending on Indian issues, I'm outraged... Are they telling me I spent too much time trying to improve public safety for Native Americans, who are victims of violent crime at a rate 2½ times the national population? If they are, then shame on them."

And of Graves -- who was asked to resign in January of last year?

From The Kansas City Star:

Her testimony about Graves’ removal came after Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, asked whether Graves was replaced because he objected to voter fraud lawsuits in Missouri.

“I don’t remember anything like that,” Goodling said. “The reason why … Mr. Graves had been asked to leave related more to the fact that he was under investigation by the inspector general, and there were some issues being looked at there.”

But no one asked her what the investigation involved, and she didn’t say. That led to a fierce argument Wednesday over the possible reasons for the inquiry.

Graves said he knew why.

In late 2005 and early 2006, he said, “A vague allegation was made against me (by a fired employee) that I had inappropriately attended a political fundraiser.”

Graves said that his picture had been taken with Vice President Dick Cheney. He said having a picture taken with a visiting president or vice president was a “normal custom.”

But the fired employee’s complaint, Graves said, led him and criminal chief Matt Whitworth to report the matter to the inspector general “out of an abundance of caution,” prompting the investigation.

He said the review showed that the complaint was without merit.

“That Ms. Goodling would adamantly disclaim any knowledge of how I or anyone else got on a (Justice Department) staff secret hit list and then casually throw out a vague memory of a routine investigation that I initiated … is beyond the pale,” Graves said in his statement.

Graves said he would try to get the inspector general’s report and supporting documents released to the public.

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