Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, prior to testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Justice Department oversight hearing. (Photo: AP)
Attorney General Eric Holder appeared for the sixth time before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, asked to speak about the IRS' admission that it has been targeting conservative organizations and the Department of Justice secretly seizing two months of phone records from the Associated Press.
Unfortunately, though, Holder divulged almost nothing.
The attorney general's opening statement consisted of an overview of the Department of Justice's "achievements" and "priorities," before saying they could be "threatened" by budget cuts related to sequestration.
But in response to repeated questions by Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) about the DOJ seizing phone records from the Associated Press, Holder said: "I was not the person involved in that decision...I am not familiar why the subpoena was constructed in the way it was because I was not involved in the case..." etc.
He also often noted that there is an ongoing investigation that prevents him from commenting.
Lawmakers then attempted to determine who authorized the subpoena if not Holder, and the attorney general said he would "assume" that the deputy attorney general did after he recused himself from the case, and received confirmation during the hearing that Deputy Attorney General James Cole indeed did authorize the subpoenas.
Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL) was one of the lawmakers to glean some new information from the attorney general.
While we know Holder has recused himself from the case, Bachus' questions reveal that apparently Holder doesn't know when exactly he did so.
"On what date did you recuse yourself?" Bachus asked.
"I'm not sure, I think it was towards the beginning of the matter," Holder responded.
"Isn't that sort of an unacceptable procedure? The statue says that the attorney general shall approve the subpoena. There was no memorandum, no email -- when you recused yourself, was it in writing, was it orally? Did you tell someone, did you alert the White House?" Bachus probed.
"I would've told the deputy attorney general," Holder replied, though he said there would be no record of it in writing.
Holder said the FBI's criminal investigation of the IRS could feasibly include civil rights violations, false statements, and potential violations of the Hatch Act, though he couldn't say by or for whom.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) was particularly disturbed by Holder's actions, saying "the actions of the department have, in fact, impaired the First Amendment."
To this, as with the rest, Holder provided a limited explanation.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) was one of several lawmakers to suggest Holder and other administration officials travel to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and reflect on the phrase "the buck stops here."
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) held up a picture of Tyrone Woods, one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, then a photo of Brian Terry, a U.S. border patrol agent killed with an illegal gun tied to Operation Fast and Furious, asking whether there was anything the government could have done to prevent the loss of life.
When Holder prevaricated, Forbes grew agitated and said the only way we can prevent equal corruption in our health care system is for our personal health information never to be sent to the IRS in the first place. Because once the government inevitably overreaches, there is a clear precedent that no one will be held accountable.