Attorney General Eric Holder fielded questions Wednesday from a number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill seeking answers about the flurry of scandals involving the Administration of President Barack Obama that have broken over the past several days, not the least of which was the Associated Press hacking fiasco.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Holder was asked about potential intelligence failures leading up to the Boston Marathon bombing, about Justice Department inquiry into the Internal Revenue Service’s abuse of conservatives and — with the most fanfare — about the AP hacking scandal.
“Just two days ago, it was revealed that the Justice Department obtained telephone records for more than 20 Associated Press reporters and editors over a two-month period,” Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said during opening remarks. “These requests appear to be very broad and intersect important 1st Amendment protections. Any abridgement of the 1st Amendment right to the freedom of the press is very concerning, and members of the Committee want to hear an explanation from you today.”
Holder, unsurprisingly, used his time before lawmakers to skirt the explosive issues at hand and claim that Justice’s successes should outweigh any of the failures coming to light.
In a prepared opening statement that was seemingly taken straight from the Jay Carney say-a lot-say-nothing playbook, Holder said: “Particularly in recent years, the Department has taken critical steps to prevent and combat violent crime, to confront national security threats, to ensure the civil rights of everyone in this country, and to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our society. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of my colleagues — the nearly 116,000 dedicated men and women who serve in Justice Department offices around the world — I’m pleased to report that we’ve established a remarkable record of progress in expanding our nation’s founding promise of equal justice under law, and ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”
Holder went on to reiterate the claim that he had absolutely no involvement in authorizing the seizure of AP records, passing the buck to Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
“I’ve just been given a note that we have in fact confirmed that the deputy was the one who authorized these subpoenas,” he told the committee.
During an exchange with Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the Attorney General initially told lawmakers that he could not confirm who gave the green light for the probe into the AP phone records because he recused himself from the investigation.
Sensenbrenner pressed Holder: “Why were you recused?”
“I was interviewed as one of the people who had access to the info,” Holder replied, inferring that he was a potential suspect in the leak that led to the hacking.
Frustrated, Sensenbrenner suggested that Holder should go to the Truman Museum and “take a picture of the thing on his desk that said ‘the buck stops here.'”
Holder went on to address calls from the Republican National Committee for him to step down, alluding that the RNC was overreacting — which seems to be a charge lobbed at conservatives from top Administration officials with increasing frequency.
“The head of the [Republican National Committee] called for my resignation in spite of the fact that I was not the person who was involved in that decision,” he said.
Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who represents Cincinnati (where the IRS’s questionable practices were claimed to have begun), attended the hearing and asked Holder whether the Cincinnati office was the only one involved.
Holder gave non-answers.
“I simply don’t know,” Holder said. “We’ve only begun our investigation.”
But Holder did trouble himself to protect the President, telling Representative Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) that Obama was not privy to Justice’s unConstitutional spying on reporters.
After saying nothing and deflecting responsibility, Holder took the logical next step and applied Saul Alinsky’s fifth rule for radicals: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
Responding to Representative Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) harsh questioning, Holder lashed out at the lawmaker, saying, “The way you conduct yourself as a member of Congress, is unacceptable and shameful.”