IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

GOP sets its sights on Holder

Getty Images

Watching the Sunday shows, it was hard not to notice the contempt congressional Republicans have for Attorney General Eric Holder. It's probably worth pausing to appreciate why.

Indeed, it's easy to forget at times exactly why Holder has been held in such low regard by the GOP effectively since his first day on the job. For a while, Republicans wanted Holder's ouster over "Fast & Furious," though that didn't pan out well. So what is driving the current push among Republicans to force the A.G. from office?

This is.

At the May 15 House Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Holder said, "With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material–that is not something I've ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy."

"In fact, my view is quite the opposite," Mr. Holder continued. He added, "There should be a shield law with regard to the press's ability to gather information and to disseminate it."

As part of an investigation into a leak about North Korea, the Justice Department targeted Mr. Rosen, Fox's chief Washington correspondent. Investigators tracked the reporter's movements at the State Department using his security badge and looked at personal email messages he traded with a government adviser suspected of leaking the information. At one point, an FBI agent investigating the case described Mr. Rosen "either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator."

For its part, the Justice Department has said, "The attorney general's testimony concerning the potential prosecution of a member of the press was accurate and consistent with the facts [of the leak case]. At no time during the leak case ... before or after the FBI sought the search warrant, have prosecutors sought approval to bring criminal charges against the reporter."

What's more, Holder still has Democratic allies. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) insisted yesterday on "Meet the Press" that Holder has done nothing wrong, he's "continued to do his job well," and Schumer hasn't seen "anything that would prevent him from continuing to do his job."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also said there was no contradiction in Holder's testimony because the A.G. was not involved in the "near prosecution" of journalists and Rosen had not been prosecuted. "It is often the practice in cases where you have investigations that you target somebody for the purpose of gathering information with never having any intention of prosecuting them," Van Hollen said.

But the loudest voices on the Sunday shows came from Republicans on the attack.

"This is very troubling," [House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte] said on Fox News Sunday. "It is fair to say we are investigating the conflict in his remarks." He stopping short of saying he believed Mr. Holder perjured himself before lawmakers.

Mr. Goodlatte wrote to Mr. Holder last week asking for a clarification of his remarks. On Sunday, he said he would wait to "pass judgment" until after Mr. Holder responds.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said, "It would be kind to say he misled Congress. It would be less kind and more accurate to say that would rise to be a lie by most people's standards." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "I don't think there's any doubt there are significant contradictions" between Holder's testimony and his actions.

And Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) went so far as to say Holder's statement did such extraordinary harm, it "will take a generation to rebuild trust in the federal government."

No, seriously, that's what she said.

So long as Holder enjoys the White House's support, I suspect Republicans aren't going to have much success on this front, but it's certainly a story worth watching.