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In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reinforced the notion that he is unfit to remain in office. Although he was grilled about many of the scandals afflicting the Obama administration, the seizure of phone records from the Associated Press (AP) remained the major concern for both Republicans and Democrats. Holder made it clear they were wasting their time trying to get answers about the investigation from him. “I was not the person involved in that decision,” he insisted. “I was recused in that matter as I described in a press conference held yesterday. The decision to issue this subpoena was made by the people presently involved in the case.”
Holder said he recused himself from the probe because ”I am a possessor of information eventually leaked.” He expressed faith in the ability of those looking into the leaking of top-secret information to the AP. the leak revealed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that undermined an al Qaeda plot to get an underwear bomber on a jetliner. “I have faith in the people who actually were responsible for this case, that they were aware of the rules and that they followed them,” Holder said. “But I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused.”
That was an understatement. Holder wasn’t even able to answer the most basic questions about the investigation. He couldn’t say why the DOJ didn’t follow the standard practice of negotiating with the AP before issuing the subpoenas. “That I don’t know,” he responded to the question posed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). ”There are exceptions if the integrity of the investigation would be impacted. I don’t know why that didn’t happen.” Sensenbrenner asked him who authorized the subpoena, “because the code of federal regulations is pretty specific that this is supposed to go as close to the top as possible.” Holder was noncommittal, claiming he was “probably 95 percent, 99 percent certain the deputy attorney general acting in my stead was the one who authorizes the subpoena.” After being handed a note, he confirmed that ”the (Deputy Attorney General James Cole) was the one who authorized the subpoena.” Sensenbrenner expressed frustration regarding Holder’s evasiveness, suggesting administration officials travel to the Harry Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign, “the buck stops here.”
The Congressman then explained why. ”There doesn’t appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong,” he said.
Holder couldn’t even say for certain when he recused himself. “I’m not sure, I think it was towards the beginning of the matter. I don’t know exactly when, but it was towards the beginning of the matter,” he told Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL). Despite this complete lack of knowledge, Holder remains supportive of the seizure of two months of phone records via a secretly issued subpoena, because the aforementioned story involved “a very serious leak, a very grave leak.”
What Holder leaves out is the reality that this leak, as well as the ones regarding the president’s “kill list” of terror suspects, the Stuxnet virus used to foil Iranian nuclear ambitions, and the leaking of classified information about SEAL Team 6 to Hollywood producers by Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers were remarkably consistent in one respect: they all accrued to Barack Obama’s efforts to appear “tough on terror” leading up to the 2012 election. Thus, it would stand to reason someone in the Obama administration was the source of the leaks for which AP phone records were secretly subpoenaed. It would be useful to know who has been subpoenaed on the other side of this equation–or who hasn’t, making the seizure of AP phone records necessary.
Democrats were willing to offer Holder cover on the issue. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) was delighted that Republicans were now interested in media protection, considering a shield law died in the Senate in 2009. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) criticized the “hue and cry” raised by the same Republicans who, last year, “wanted reporters subpoenaed, put in front of grand juries” in an effort to stop leaks. Apparently Conyers forgot that Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2006, and Nadler is unable to fathom the difference between overt and covert subpoenas, as well as the difference between grand jury testimony and a secret DOJ investigation.
Holder was grilled on the additional scandals surrounding the administration, including the potential lapses in intelligence sharing prior to the Boston Marathon bombings, and the IRS’s targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny.
With regard to the Boston bombings, Holder asserted that the DOJ’s investigation had been “thorough.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, disagreed, contending there was “troubling information” leading to the conclusion that the federal agencies involved in the investigation “failed to connect the dots.” “It does not appear that all of the information was received by all the pertinent parties, particularly the FBI,” the congressman said. When Goodlatte asked what the DOJ is doing about procedure regarding hits in terror databases, Holder sidestepped the question, saying only that there is an ongoing inspector general investigation.
Holder was further challenged by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who wondered what the FBI did, or didn’t, pursue after receiving Russian intelligence indicating Tamerlan Tsarnaev had become radicalized. “A lot of people are concerned about profiling, but there are a lot more people concerned about getting blown up by a terrorist,” Gomert contended.
Holder responded angrily to Gomert’s assertion. “Unless somebody has done something inappropriate, you don’t have access to the FBI files, you don’t know what the FBI did,” Holder said. “You simply do not know.”
Neither does anyone else at this point, and given the DOJ’s track record regarding other administration investigations, such as the one over Fast and Furious, it is more than likely any revelations about who knew what and when will be stonewalled.
Holder was equally vague regarding the IRS scandal. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) inquired if the investigation would be far reaching, “including Washington, D.C.,” if necessary. Holder promised to go “wherever the facts take us.” On the other hand, he said it would take time to determine if there was “criminal” wrongdoing.
Late yesterday afternoon, it appeared that timeline would get even longer. Around 6 p.m. EDT, the president announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had accepted the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller. Obama characterized the “misconduct” detailed in the just-released Inspector General report about the IRS’s handling of conservative tax exempt applications as “inexcusable.” It remains to be a seen if Miller will be part of Holder’s investigation into IRS malfeasance, or simply be allowed to fade into oblivion.
The progressive media have already begun circling the wagons around the Attorney General. Media Matters insisted the secret seizure of AP phone records was a necessity. “If the press compromised active counter-terror operations for a story that only tipped off the terrorists, that sounds like it should be investigated,” they contended.
So should Media Matters’ relationship with the DOJ. Internal DOJ emails obtained in 2012 by the Daily Caller revealed the leftist advocacy group regularly collaborated with the DOJ to attack reporters who covered DOJ scandals. Tracy Schmaler, Office of Public Affairs Director for the Justice Department, worked with Media Matters staffers to attack a number of prominent journalists, including Townhall Magazine’s Katie Pavlich, Breitbart.com writers Joel Pollak and Ken Klukowski, Fox News’s William LaJeunesse, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Megyn Kelly, Martha MacCallum, Bill Hemmer, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy. Former DOJ Civil Rights Division attorneys J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky were also attacked.
The Daily Caller obtained the emails after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was fulfilled long after the 20-business-day limit required by law.
Moreover, the Office of Public Affairs has no business conducting a political operation. Its function is to keep the public informed about what the DOJ is doing to enforce the laws. That it was more than willing to violate its mandate is a good indication of how deep the rot at the DOJ goes.
Yesterday, Eric Holder did what he does best whenever he appears before a Congressional Committee: provide as little information as possible, become indignant when anyone suggests he has acted improperly, and fob responsibility for every possible impropriety conducted by his department onto someone else–when he’s not busy stonewalling scandals. Even a contempt of Congress citation for his refusal to provide critical information in the Fast and Furious gunrunning debacle that resulted in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, along with hundreds of Mexican nationals, including children, has failed to chasten his contempt for the rule of law, or his determination to maintain the most ideologically-compromised Department of Justice in modern history.
Holder can only serve as long as he maintains the support of President Barack Obama. That he still does, speaks volumes–about both men.
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