May 15, 2013
As predicted, Wednesday afternoon’s testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder focused heavily on revelations that the Department of Justice subpoenaed phone records from the Associated Press following their publishing leaked information about a terror attack. The House Judiciary Committee had the wrong guy at the witness table, though, since Holder, who’d recused himself from the matter couldn’t offer much new information. This left the committee members to fill the time by attacking their opponents, and allowed for a dispute that resulted in Holder calling a Congressmember’s behavior “unacceptable and shameful.”
At the start, it seemed as though the focus might not be the AP investigation. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the committee, either didn’t have time to update his talking points for the hearing or let his own priorities slip through. During his opening comments, Goodlatte raised the following issues as topics, in order: the Boston terror attacks, spending at the department, questionable farm loan payments (known popularly as “Pigford”), the problems at the IRS, and, finally, the department’s seizure of phone records from the AP.
Or, perhaps, it was because the chairman knew what questions he was likely to get answers to. When Goodlatte kicked off the questioning, he and Holder had a brief back-and-forth on the FBI’s use and sharing of information about the Tsarnaevs prior to the Boston attacks. Holder agreed with Goodlatte, for example, that the law regarding the immediacy of reading Miranda rights didn’t reflect what he sees as current needs. When Goodlatte moved on to the AP, the responses were less forthcoming. “I don’t know” why a subpoena was necessary, Holder insisted, “I was recused.” When Goodlatte asked why if the AP was willing to work with the government to hold reports on the attack it couldn’t be worked with to share phone records, Holder repeated a similar answer, although other answers could also have been provided.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin had a little more luck. Stating that he wanted to “pin down” who authorized the subpoenas that yielded the AP records. Was it deputy attorney general James Cole, Sensenbrenner asked? After repeating that he couldn’t be sure due to his recusal, Holder confirmed that it was — but only after receiving a note from his staff. (Multiple members subsequently suggested Cole should testify, though Holder noted that he probably couldn’t respond.) Sensenbrenner continued: Why were you recused? “I was interviewed as one of the people who had access to the info,” Holder replied — in other words, he was a potential suspect in the leak. Sensenbrenner, frustrated at not getting a response, suggested Holder go to the Truman Museum and “take a picture of the thing on his desk that said ‘the buck stops here.'”
This article was posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm