Monica Goodling Takes the Fifth

Laura Kellman reports on something that has caught fire in the press and Blogland:

Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday … Goodling was Gonzales’ senior counsel and White House liaison until she took a leave of absence earlier this month.

One would think the testimony of this liaison would prove useful. David Stout and Jim Rutenberg claims that this may be no big deal:

But Ms. Goodling’s refusal does not signal that she has anything to hide, Mr. Dowd told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy. Rather, Mr. Dowd said, it is a recognition of the “hostile and questionable environment” that has been spawned by the controversy.

Brad DeLong replies with:

Has there ever been a more false lead in any newspaper? Monica Goodling is not refusing to testify on the grounds that she believes that the committee will not treat her fairly. Monica Goodling is refusing to testify on the grounds that testifying may incriminate her. There is a difference.

Indeed there is and Orin Kerr wonders if she has the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment here:

I’m not sure I follow the rationale here. The Fifth Amendment privilege is available if the witness has reasonable ground to believe that her testimony will be used against her to prove an element of a crime.

And we have heard the rightwing mantra that no crime was committed. But via Kevin Drum comes an interesting observation from Walter Dellinger and Christopher Schroeder:

But if there is a plausible basis for believing that the Bush administration replaced any U.S. attorney to improperly obstruct a criminal investigation or improperly prompt an indictment, or a plausible basis for believing that earlier congressional inquiries were wrongfully impeded, then claims of executive privilege should give way for evidence pertinent to that charge.

Obstructing a criminal investigation? Since when is obstructing justice Perfectly Legal? And you thought the GOP was the Rule of Law Party!