May 16, 2013

AG Holder getting heat from all sides

For reasons both trumped up and real, he's a repeat target for conservative and liberal critics alike.

By MICHAEL DOYLE McClatchy Washington Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

Eric Holder
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Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement official, is sworn in Wednesday before testifying at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.

The Associated Press

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Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI's criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service could include potential civil rights violations, false statements and potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in some partisan political activities.

Holder, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, was asked what criminal charges could be pursued against IRS employees. Holder announced Tuesday that the Justice Department was the investigating the IRS after the agency acknowledged that agents had singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Holder also says it will take time to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing.

In other testimony, Holder told Congress that a serious national security leak required the secret gathering of telephone records at The Associated Press, as he stood by an investigation in which he insisted he had no involvement.

Pestered by Republicans and some Democrats, Holder testified that he has faith in the individuals conducting the broad investigation, driven in large part by GOP outrage last year over the possibility that administration officials leaked information to enhance President Obama's national security reputation in an election year.

Holder said he had recused himself from the case because "I am a possessor of information eventually leaked." He said he was unable to answer questions on the subpoenas and why the Justice Department failed to negotiate with the AP prior to the subpoenas, a standard practice.

That elicited frustration from some committee members with the Obama administration and the attorney general.

"There doesn't appear to be any acceptance of responsibility for things that have gone wrong," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Holder. He suggested that administration officials travel to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and take a photo of the famous sign "The buck stops here."

-- The Associated Press

The sharp tone of questions Wednesday from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who previously led the House contempt action, prompted Holder to call Issa's actions "unacceptable and shameful."

"It is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress," a visibly angry Holder told Issa at the hearing.

But members of the Democrats' liberal base have been unhappy, too.

Guantanamo "will be closed," Holder assured senators in 2009. Instead, the detention facility for terrorism suspects remains open.

Among the Obama administration's original top-tier Cabinet officials, Holder is now the last man standing.

Obama's first secretary of state, secretary of defense and treasury secretary have all left. Four White House chiefs of staff have come and gone since Holder took his oath of office in February 2009. His chief deputy, Cole, is the third to hold that position.

Holder's criminal division chief stepped down in March. An acting assistant attorney general heads the civil division. Acting heads, who lack the clout that comes with Senate confirmation, likewise head the Justice Department's important national security division and Office of Legal Policy, among others.

"I've got to run an agency of 116,000 employees," Holder said, "and I do it the best I can."

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