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Criminals in the Justice Department
Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general's report released todayGoodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.
Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.
Taking political or personal factors into account in employment decisions for career positions violates civil service laws and can run afoul of ethics rules. Investigators said today that both Goodling and Sampson had engaged in "misconduct."
The improper personnel moves deprived worthy candidates of promotions and damaged the credibility of the Justice Department, investigators wrote. An experienced counterterrorism prosecutor, for example, was kept from advancing in favor of a more junior lawyer who lacked a background in terrorism. The procedures imposed on immigration judge candidates caused serious delays in appointing judges at a time when the courts suffered under a heavy workload, the report said.
Goodling, who resigned in 2007 amid a scandal over the department's politicized hiring, is a central figure in the long-running investigation into the way politics infused decision-making at the department. Sampson, who had served as a top aide to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, also left the department last year and now works at a law firm in the Washington area. .
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