WASHINGTON (AP) _ Monica Goodling, once Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' White House liaison, would be granted immunity from prosecution and forced to testify under a plan being considered by a House panel probing the firings of federal prosecutors.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said Tuesday that Goodling, who has refused to testify, has much to contribute to the investigation.
``I am hopeful we can approve immunity so that we can schedule her to testify as soon as possible and begin to clear up the many inconsistencies and gaps surrounding this matter,'' said Conyers, D-Mich.
``She's at the nexus of the relationship between the White House and the Justice Department,'' added Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The committee vote, scheduled for Wednesday, is part of an effort by Democrats to find out why the Bush administration dismissed eight of the nation's 93 federal prosecutors.
Democrats question whether the administration singled out some of those fired in an effort to interfere with corruption cases in ways that might help Republicans.
No evidence has surfaced to support allegations of wrongdoing, but Gonzales' shifting explanations have led to calls for his resignation and thrown his department into turmoil. His long-awaited testimony on the matter was postponed from Tuesday to Thursday this week because of the Virginia Tech murders.
In the interim, Democrats have kept up the pressure. Conyers' committee announced this week that they want to talk to Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh.
Her name came up during a private interview by House and Senate investigators with Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' one-time chief of staff. Sampson told the investigators over the weekend that Buchanan was one of the senior Justice Department officials he consulted on which U.S. attorneys should be asked to resign, according to a senior Democratic aide who has seen a transcript of the interview. The aide requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. At the time, Buchanan was also serving as director of the office that oversees U.S. attorneys.
Buchanan refused to comment.
House Democrats focused Tuesday on Goodling's testimony. Gonzales' former counsel and White House liaison quit over the furor and has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. She and her lawyer have said any testimony could amount to a perjury trap.
A two-thirds majority vote on the committee would be required to grant her immunity. The panel has 22 Democrats and 17 Republicans. The panel also was set to vote on a separate measure that would authorize _ but not issue _ a subpoena for Goodling.
Her lawyer, John Dowd, refused to comment.
Republicans didn't appear Tuesday ready to go along with either measure. Committee member Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, wouldn't say how he will, but he said, ``This immunity offer and the threat of a subpoena are merely meant to fan the flames of speculation and grab headlines.''
Meanwhile Tuesday, Emmet Flood, special counsel to the president, asked a lawyer for the Republican National Committee to withhold any e-mails sought by Conyers' committee until Flood can review them. Conyers said Flood's request is an impediment to the investigation.