The Obama administration has had a rough week thus far, angering journalists, members of Congress and the American people — and Attorney General Eric Holder received the brunt of that anger on Wednesday.
During a fiery oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, the attorney general was peppered with questions from several irate Congressman on his knowledge of the Associated Press and Internal Revenue Service scandals.
Holder repeatedly reminded the committee that he was unaware of the AP investigation, where the Justice Department illegally obtained the records of phone calls made by several AP reporters and editors, and that he did not know why the wire service wasn’t given advance notice of the subpeonas, because he had previously recused himself from the investigation.
”I do not know with regard to this particular case why that was or was not done….I am not familiar with the reasons why the email was disrupted in the way that it was,” Holder told Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). “I have faith in the people who would actually be responsible for this case, [that] they were aware of the rules and they followed them. But I don’t have a factual basis to answer the question because I was recused.”
In fact, Holder found a different way to dismiss the question almost every time it came up during Wednesday’s hearing, instead saying things like “I am not familiar with the reasons why the subpoena was constructed in the way that it was because I’m simply not a part of the case” or “This is both an ongoing matter and an ongoing matter about which I know nothing.”
Holder had said Tuesday that he recused himself from the AP investigation “out of an abundance of caution,” however he clarified on Wednesday that he didn’t know “precisely” when he had officially recused himself from the investigation. He claimed that he recused himself because of his frequent contact with the media and knowledge of the national security issues that prompted the original probe.
The attorney general also addressed the controversy surrounding the IRS’s improper targeting of conservative nonprofits. He called the revelations in the Inspector General’s report “outrageous,” and told the committee that he had ordered a full criminal investigation into the matter on Friday.
“I can assure you and the American people that we will take a dispassionate view of this,” Holder told the committee. “This will not be about parties, this will not be about ideological persuasions. Anybody who has broken the law will be held accountable.”