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The US Justice Department is investigating its own chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to see if he tried to skew testimony over the firings of nine federal prosecutors, officials said.
Two department officials, in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee dated Wednesday, confirmed that the probe into the firings includes examining a meeting between Gonzales and one of his former top aides, Monica Goodling.
Goodling, questioned by the committee last month over her role in the allegedly politically motivated sackings, testified that Gonzales’s remarks in a March discussion with her on the issue left her feeling “a little uncomfortable.”
In the discussion, Gonzales recounted his recollection of the events surrounding the firings before seeking her own interpretation, said Goodling, the attorney general’s former White House liaison.
Justice’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, and counsel of the office of professional responsibility, Marshall Jarrett, replied to a Senate Judiciary Committee letter asking whether the conversation was part of their probe.
“This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter,” Wednesday’s letter says.
On Monday Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic vote of no confidence in besieged Gonzales, a move which sought to raise the pressure for his ouster.
Gonzales has denied the charges that the prosecutors were fired in an effort allegedly coordinated with top White House aides to benefit President George W. Bush’s Republican party.
Goodling and two other top Justice Department officials have resigned over the scandal.