Attorney General

Report Finds Politics Influenced Hiring of DOJ Officials, Immigration Judges

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Updated: A new report claims concludes the Justice Department illegally considered politics in the hiring of some assistant U.S. attorneys, career officials and immigration judges, and puts the blame for the decisions on two aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The report says former White House liaison Monica Goodling broke the law and violated department policy for favoring Republicans and conservatives, the Associated Press reports. The report also cites chief of staff Kyle Sampson.

Gonzales was mostly unaware of the hiring decisions by the two aides, according to the report (PDF) by the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of Inspector General. Its probe was spurred by allegations that politics influenced the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

Investigators interviewed more than 85 individuals and searched the computer hard drives of several Justice Department employees, including Sampson and Goodling.

The report said Goodling considered political or ideological affiliations in two instances when evaluating requests for the hiring of assistant U.S. attorneys by interim U.S. attorneys. It also found she took politics into account when hiring career lawyers in several Justice Department offices. In one instance, she rejected an experienced career terrorism prosecutor to work on counterterrorism issues because of his wife’s political affiliations, according to the report. The job went to a much more junior attorney.

The report found that the most systematic use of political or ideological affiliations came in the selection of immigration judges who work in the Executive Office for Immigration Review under a selection procedure created by Sampson. He told investigators he believed the immigration judges were political appointees and not subject to civil service rules, a conclusion that the report does not support. Sampson, Goodling and one of Goodling’s predecessors, Jan Williams, all inappropriately took political considerations into account when screening immigration judges, the report says.

“For example, we found that Goodling screened the candidates using a variety of techniques for determining their political affiliations, including researching the candidates’ political contributions and voter registration records, using an Internet search string with political terms, and asking the candidates questions regarding their political affiliations during interviews,” the report says.

The IJ hiring process caused significant delays, increasing the burden on immigration courts, the report notes.

The new conclusions follow a report released in late June that found politics influenced hiring in a Justice Department honors program for law graduates.

Separate reports will be issued in the future on whether politics influenced the firings of the U.S. attorneys and personnel decisions in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, according to a footnote in the report.

Updated several times to add details from the report.

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