CNN’s John Roberts: Gonzales’ Aide Pleading the Fifth is 'Another Monica Scandal'

Less than two hours after NBC's Pete Williams made a Freudian slip on Tuesday's "Today" while reporting on Monica Goodling, CNN's John Roberts made a deliberate comparison between the graduate of evangelical Messiah College and the loose young intern who was at the center of the Clinton impeachment scandal, saying, "It's just what Washington needs, isn't it, another Monica scandal." An excerpt from Roberts' exchange with A.B. Stoddard of The Hill on "American Morning:"

STODDARD: Well, at this point the problem, of course is the cover-up and not the crime. Monica Goodling was the liaison for the White House and the Justice Department. If there was some serious meddling here and the decisions were made for political purposes, she's going to know the most how much the White House was involved. And so, you know, I can see why, if something is up here, she needs to plead the Fifth. But for the purposes of the committee, at this point, it just couldn't -- it couldn't fire them up more. They're going to be looking, of course, to talk to Kyle Sampson, and then, of course, the attorney general later.But there are so many confusing, conflicting facts about why they came to this decision, it continues to look worse and worse for the Department of Justice."ROBERTS: It's just what Washington needs, isn't it, another Monica scandal. And as you said, Kyle Sampson, he's testifying on Thursday. He was the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He has since resigned in the heat of this whole scandal. He was the one who was in heavy contact with the White House about which attorneys they were thinking of pulling the trigger on. So he's going to be up there testifying and, yet, she's not. So, I mean, the perception game again here is just not looking good.

Roberts' "perception game" was the focus of the entire segment. In his first comment to Stoddard, Roberts quipped that "Maybe she didn't do anything wrong, and people are allowed to take the Fifth, but in a town, and particularly, an issue where perception is nine-tenths of what is going on, it just can't help but look bad."That was actually an inadvertent admission on the part of Roberts, since it is the perception that Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and ultimately, the Bush Administration might have fired 8 U.S. attorneys for political reasons that is driving the media's coverage of the issue.A transcript of the full segment:

ROBERTS: An aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says she is going to take the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify about her role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. For a look at the potential political fallout, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill" newspaper joins us now from Washington.Hey, A.B.A.B. STODDARD, ASSOC. EDITOR, "THE HILL": Hi, John. ROBERTS: The White House is encouraging Department of Justice employees to cooperate with congressional investigations, and yet here Monica Goodling, who was the DOJ liaison with the White House, is saying I'm taking the Fifth here. Maybe she didn't do anything wrong, and people are allowed to take the Fifth, but in a town, and particularly, an issue where perception is nine-tenths of what's going on, it just can't help but look bad.STODDARD: I can't think of anything that will charge the engines of Senator Chuck Schumer and chairman Pat Leahy more than this. I mean, we're talking to the top aide to the top law enforcement officer in the nation admitting that she fears legal jeopardy if she tells the truth about her conduct in her job. And I think at this point, you just can't -- the Justice Department itself knew this wouldn't look good. That's why they said they'd have everyone comply fully.ROBERTS: Yes, I mean, the fact that she is saying she doesn't want to implicate herself in a criminal investigation when there isn't a criminal investigation going on would seem to suggest that that there's a lot more behind the curtain than people have been alluding to.STODDARD: Well, at this point the problem, of course is the cover-up and not the crime. Monica Goodling was the liaison for the White House and the Justice Department. If there was some serious meddling here and the decisions were made for political purposes, she's going to know the most how much the White House was involved. And so, you know, I can see why, if something is up here, she needs to plead the Fifth. But for the purposes of the committee, at this point, it just couldn't -- it couldn't fire them up more. They're going to be looking, of course, to talk to Kyle Sampson, and then, of course, the attorney general later.But there are so many confusing, conflicting facts about why they came to this decision, it continues to look worse and worse for the Department of Justice.ROBERTS: It's just what Washington needs, isn't it, another Monica scandal. And as you said, Kyle Sampson, he's testifying on Thursday. He was the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He has since resigned in the heat of this whole scandal. He was the one who was in heavy contact with the White House about which attorneys they were thinking of pulling the trigger on. So he's going to be up there testifying and, yet, she's not. So, I mean, the perception game again here is just not looking good.STODDARD: And also, just if you take a look at -- this is the perfect probe for the Democrats, John. If you take a look at this. This is not a retroactive fishing expedition about the CIA leak case and a Libby trial. This is not looking at which companies got rich off of reconstruction efforts in Iraq. This is about the integrity of the Justice Department, and the Democrats have sunk their teeth in, and they're not going to let go until they have a bite.ROBERTS: Hey, just before we go, take a look, quick couple of poll numbers -- Americans by a margin of 3-1 think Congress would be right in subpoenaing officials from the White House to testify under oath.But take a look at this, as well, the Democrats risk getting dinged by this. Nearly the same number, nearly 60 percent, rather, of Americans believe that the Democrats are doing this all for political advantage, to which any Washington veteran would say, no kidding. But let's say it looks like they have some people on their side, but also a little bit of skepticism as well.STODDARD: It's a fine line to balance.ROBERTS: Yes, all right. A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of 'The Hill' newspapers. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it -- Soledad.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center