The United States Department of Justice has responded to allegations that Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress, but lawmakers on Capitol Hill aren’t impressed.
Mr. Holder’s reputation within the Justice Department has been tarnished in recent weeks in the wake of a number of DoJ scandals, including his office’s investigation of journalists with the Associated Press and Fox News.
After it was revealed last month that AP journalists were targeted in an intelligence leak investigation, Holder testified before Congress on May 16 that he had no involvement in “the potential prosecution of the press.” But in the weeks since, the attorney general has been linked directly to the Justice Department’s investigation of Fox News reporter James Rosen, a journalist believed to have received sensitive details leaked by a State Department staffer.
Congress said previously that Holder had until this Wednesday to clarify his involvement, citing the possibility of lobbing perjury charges against Holder for lying under oath. Late Monday night, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik responded on behalf of Holder.
“At no time during the pendency of this matter - before or after seeking the search warrant - have prosecutors sought approval to bring criminal charges against the reporter,” Kadzik said. “The attorney general’s testimony before the disclosure of classified information was accurate and consistent with these facts.”
Only hours after the Justice Department released its statement, the chairman of the
House Judiciary Committee issued a response of his own expressing his dissatisfaction with DoJ’s remarks.
“Today’s response from the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs raises more questions than it answers,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in his statement.
“By having a subordinate send this response rather than Attorney General Holder himself, this response begs the question of whether Holder has something to hide,” Goodlatte added. “Discrepancies in Attorney General Holder’s congressional testimony made on the record need to be corrected on the record to Congress by Attorney General Holder himself.”
“Attorney General Holder still has yet to respond to our letter. He can’t outsource the responsibility for his actions to lower level staff—the buck stops with him. The American people and Congress deserve answers and accountability from Attorney General Holder. The House Judiciary Committee anxiously awaits his response to our May 29 letter by this Wednesday’s deadline,” Goodlatte said.
According to a statement made by others on the Hill, the Committee chairman isn’t alone.
“This response is insulting and further proof that Attorney
General Holder refuses to hold himself accountable,” Rep.
James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) added in a statement of his
own. “Not only did the letter come from a low-level staffer at
DOJ, not Holder himself, it fails to answer the questions raised
by his misleading testimony.”
“Congress and the American people deserve an explanation from the Attorney General,” said Sensenbrenner. “It is increasingly obvious that Eric Holder has something to hide. I still expect a response from the Attorney General before the deadline of Wednesday, June 5.”
Rep. Goodlatte said over the weekend that the subcommittee would refrain from taking action against Holder unless he declines to respond personally before this Wednesday’s deadline. Commenting on potential charges of perjury, Goodlatte told Fox News Sunday that Congress would consider giving the attorney general an opportunity to explain himself, even if his remarks so far have failed to add up.
“Those remarks were made under oath. But we also think it’s very important the attorney general be afforded the opportunity to respond,” Goodlatte said.
Meanwhile, Holder told members of the media last week that the Justice Department would make changes to its policies in regards to investigations involving American journalists. Following a meeting last week initially scheduled to be off the record, Martin Baron told the Washington Post that Holder and his aides “completely endorsed the president’s statement that reporters should not be at legal risk for doing their job.”
“They acknowledged the need for changes in their own guidelines and the need to have a more rigorous internal review,” he said.