By LAURIE KELLMAN
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Monica Goodling, a 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.
"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," said the lawyer, John Dowd.
He said that members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees seem already to have made up their minds that wrongdoing has occurred in the firings.
Goodling, who is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' senior counsel and White House liaison, took a leave of absence this month. She was subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee along with several of Gonzales' other top aides.
There have been questions about whether Goodling and others misinformed Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty about the firings just before he testified before the Senate committee in February.
Dowd said that a senior Justice Department official had told a member of the Senate committee that he was misled by Goodling and others before testifying.
The potential for taking the blame for the department's bungled response "is very real," Dowd said. "One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," he said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.