by S-Q @ 8:45 PM MDT
The noose tightened Tuesday around beleaguered US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, after a top aide, fearing criminal prosecution, refused to testify in a scandal over the dismissals of eight federal prosecutors.
Questions about what role Gonzales might have played in the affair intensified, after senior aide Monica Goodling invoked her Fifth Amendment rights to avoid potential self-incrimination and declined to answer lawmakers' questions about the firings.
"The hostile and questionable environment in the present congressional proceedings is at best ambiguous," her lawyer John Dowd said in a statement.
"More accurately, the environment can be described as legally perilous."
Goodling, 33, is on a leave from her post as counsel to the attorney general and as the Justice Department's White House liaison.
She is refusing to appear at a US Senate hearing Thursday at which another former senior aide who played a key role in the firings is to testify.